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Fear of the Dark

Kavita's 6-year-old daughter, Tisha, was extremely fearful of the dark. As Tisha had no siblings, she had no one to share the room with, and she refused to sleep alone. Every night Kavita was compelled to lie down with her until she fell asleep. Often, Tisha would wake up at night, realise that no one was in the room, and crawl into her parents' bed at night.

Does this sound like your child?  

Many children have profound fears of the dark, and often, parents mistakenly ignore this fear, thinking it will go away with time. However, this does not always happen, and children carry this fear well into adulthood, by which time it develops into a phobia. It makes sense to tackle this fear right now. Here are some tips to help you handle this situation.  

Switch on a night light

Your child may be afraid of the prospect of entering a pitch-black room. If this is the case, leave a night lamp on in your child's room to allay your child's fears somewhat. In addition, if your child wakes up at night, he will not find himself in darkness, so will not start panicking. 

Get a dimmer

Alternatively, install a dimmer light in your child's bedroom. Turn it down to a level your child is comfortable with. You could gradually dim the room further, as time progresses. 

If this does not work, and your child still finds it difficult to enter a darkened room, his fear may be even more profound.

Let your child discuss his fears

Speak to your child about what exactly it is that he is afraid of. Often, a child will be disturbed by something he saw on the television, which sparks his imagination and causes him to picture ghosts all around him. So if your child says that he is afraid of ghosts and supernatural beings, don't laugh off his answer by saying that he is just being silly, and that there are no such things as ghosts. Let him speak about his fears. The more the speaks about them, the more he will be able to identify what exactly it is that he is afraid off. While speaking about it, he may realize that his fears are unfounded. 

Speak to him gently, and have a question answer session. Speak to him about God, who is all-powerful, and will not let ghosts harm him. Place a picture of God next to his bedside table, so he feels as though he is being looked after. 

Provide him with incentives

Once you have spoken to him, play a little game. Encourage him to lie down alone in the room for a few minutes. Let him see you standing outside the door, perhaps a little far away, so he knows he can run out anytime. Gradually keep increasing the time he has to lie down before running out. Gift him with a star every time he stays in his bedroom for the designated time period, and after he has gathered a certain number of stars, get him a small present. 

Play games

Play games like 'dark room' with your child, so he grows accustomed to being in the dark. 

Prevent your children from watching too much television

Do not let your children watch horror movies, or movies with gruesome scenes or a lot of violence. Younger children should not be allowed to watch movies at all, as you never know what disturbs them. Don't be surprised if they are disturbed by a music video with flashing lights and painted faces, shown on MTV! Let them stick to watching cartoons alone.

Similarly, if an older child watches a horror movie or even a murder mystery, he might have trouble sleeping alone at night. Stick to watching comedies, until your child is old enough to conquer his fears. 

Make sure your child sleeps in his own bed

Often children want to crawl into their parents bed if they are afraid at night. Discourage this habit, as it becomes hard to break. If your child comes running to you, you should escort him back to his room. Sit with your child for a short while, and comfort him until he starts feeling better. You could leave the room when he is still awake, if he is feeling better by then, or after he falls asleep.

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