How to Calm Your Child's Fears of the Dark

Three Parts:Providing ReassuranceHelping Your Child to CopeCreating a Positive Bedtime Experience

Being afraid of the dark is a common fear for children. As a parent, it is important that you provide reassurance to their fears and communicate that you understand their concerns. Teach your child that they are safe in the dark. Use coping strategies for children to help them feel comfortable when they are alone at night. By making the bedtime routine something fun and relaxing, sleeping in the dark will seem less scary.

Part 1
Providing Reassurance

  1. 1
    Talk with your child about their bedtime fears. Ask your child what he or she thinks and feels when it's dark. Reassure your child that their worries are normal, and will be less as they grow. Be respectful. [1]
    • Avoid saying that their fears are silly. This may make them feel guilty or ashamed, and it’s important that you show support.
    • Communicating about fears will help your child learn to be open with you. This builds trust over time.
    • Consider saying, "I know it feels scary right now, and that's normal, but it will get better" or "Tell me what makes you feel afraid. How can I help?"
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    Provide comfort to your child that they are safe. Feeling afraid of the dark is a primal, evolutionary fear. Sleeping alone in separate bedrooms is a modern way of life. This practice will take time for your child to understand. Be loving, comforting, and supportive. Reassure them they are safe with you.[2]
    • Be a role model and show confidence that they are safe. Be calm and sensitive to your child's needs.
    • Avoid the desire to overprotect them. If you show anxiety about their safety, then they may respond by being more anxious.
    • Consider saying, "No need to worry. You are safe here at home."
  3. 3
    Avoid increasing fears. If your child is fearful of monsters under the bed or elsewhere in the home, don't reinforce these fears by playing along. Children have imaginative fears that they may believe is real to them. Young children under the age of 5 have difficulty in distinguishing fantasy from reality. [3]
    • Don't inadvertently reinforce fears by scaring your child with scary stories of "things that go bump in the night."
    • Use reason and logic to help your child learn about their fears.

Part 2
Helping Your Child to Cope

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    Use nightlights. Get a nightlight for your child's bedroom. Nightlights give just enough light, helping your child feel more relaxed. [4]
    • Nightlights can also be placed in the hallways and bathrooms to help ease fears if walking outside of the room in the dark.
    • If a nightlight isn't available or disrupts your child's sleep, leave the hall light on and the child's bedroom door open. This allows a little light to still enter. It may make your child feel less isolated with the door ajar.
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    Provide an object for companionship. Your child may feel more secure with something to ease his or her fears. Consider finding a special object for your child's security as they learn to sleep on their own. Consider these:
    • A large stuffed animal. This can provide comfort to soothe fears or anxiety.
    • A special blanket or other object to provide security. This may make your child feel more protected.
    • A pet, such as a dog or cat, that your child enjoys sleeping with.
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    Provide positive reinforcement. Use tools to help them learn that bedtime can be a rewarding experience. For small children, it could be a sticker program that leads to small prizes. It helps to teach you child that they will be rewarded for good behavior. Teach them about how to be brave like you with encouragement.[5]
    • After the lights are out, consider saying something like, “You’re doing such a good job of staying in bed.”
    • Listen to your child if their fears continue to persist despite these techniques. Talk with them in the morning about their experiences.

Part 3
Creating a Positive Bedtime Experience

  1. 1
    Avoid TV shortly before bed. Exposing small children to frightening things that may seem tame to you should be avoided in the evenings. This can include passive exposure, while you or an older child watch scary movies or TV.[6]
    • Think about how your child may not be able to verbalize fears about the evening news, movies with violence, or TV shows with monsters.
    • Make sure that your young children are away from the TV at least 1-2 hours before bedtime. Frightening TV, stories, or imagery can disrupt sleep patterns.
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    Spend time with your child in the dark. After turning out the lights, stay with them until their eyes adjust to the dark. Sit and talk with them casually in the dark. Show them that being in the dark can be fun and relaxing.
    • Have fun playing in the dark. Make it seem like doing things in the dark is natural.
    • Make up a game of flashlight tag. Use flashlights to help identify things in the room that you see. Identify things in the room that comfort your children and make them feel happy.
    • Create a starry sky on the bedroom ceiling. Put glow-in-the-dark stars on the walls and ceiling. Your children will feel like they're explorers in the outdoors, sleeping under the stars.
  3. 3
    Make bedtime a relaxing experience. Make your child's bedroom feel homey and reassuring. Place cheerful pictures up of people and places. Make this a time to wind down with a bedtime story or a warm bath before bed. Sit quietly with your child to help them transition to sleeping.[7]
    • Help your child get ready for bed with a bath.
    • Sing a quiet song or lullaby.
    • Read books that help both to teach and act as sleeping aids.
    • Hug and kiss your child. Make them feel loved.


  • Encourage your child to talk about or draw pictures of anything they think they see in the dark. Communication is essential to overcoming fears.
  • Consider seeking help from a professional counselor if your child’s fears continue to persist or worsen over time. Learning about what makes your child afraid and teaching them effective coping skills is key.


  • As your child grows older, resist the urge to let them sleep with you every time they have a fear of the dark or feel anxious at night. Help them to cope by learning to sleep in their own beds, and providing that comfort in their room. Help your child back to his or her room to make them feel safe.[8]

Article Info

Categories: Childhood Fears and Phobias