Does your child often wake you up in the middle of the night with his scream? And when you asked him why, he looks into the window and tell you a monster was trying to get in there. Is your child afraid to sleep alone in his room or wouldn’t want to switch off the light as he sleeps? Many parents experience problems helping their children manage fears, particularly fear of monsters. While it’s normal to feel scared, uncontrolled fears can negatively affect the growth and development of your child.
Is it okay to make children scared?
It’s natural for parents to tell spooky tales to their children. Aside from the fact that they also heard the same tales when they were still young, making children feel scared at times help them become more self-protective and cautious about various things like going out alone at night, talking to strangers, doing bad things to other people, etc.
But the world evolves and what was spookiest for us during our childhood may no longer be scary for our kids. Today, horror movies that children tend to watch are extremely terrifying that even adults feel scared of them. But here’s the thing – children under five usually find it hard to distinguish reality from fantasy. As they reach 7, they still feel that the zombies in the Resident Evil are real no matter how many times you tell them they’re not. At the age of 8-12, children are most frightened when they watch realistic violence like a tall masked man who carries a chain saw, burglars breaking in to the window, and the lady running from the madman amidst the heavy rain.
These scary images often haunt children even in their dreams and could greatly affect their daily routines and behaviour.
There is no need to take your child to a monster-exterminating psychologist right then and there. Try these techniques to help your child control if not eliminate his fears of monsters:
Acknowledge his fears. A child who is so scared runs to his mum with a plethora of tears. Don’t try to ignore or calm him down by telling that “it’s not real”, “big boys don’t cry”, “don’t be a baby”, etc. This is just going to make your child feel more scared or he might start to think that something is wrong with him. Instead, hug him tight and assure him that you are going to be there and no one’s going to harm him as long as you’re there. Tell your kid that it’s normal for young people to feel scared. You also want to share your own spooky experiences so he would know that you truly understand.
Make his night environment less spooky. Maybe you can let your child stay in your room for a week as he tries to get over with the horror movie he just seen, or rearrange his bedroom to make the atmosphere more childlike and comfortable.
Don’t use his fears as a punishment. If you do this, you are making the concept of monsters more real for your child. Many parents try to punish their kids by using their night-time fears against them. Punish your kid by confronting him about his mistakes and not by scaring him with monsters and other scary characters.
Buy books instead of movies. Your goal is to help your child manage his fears. One way to do this is to read him a book (or let him read it by himself) instead of letting him watch horror movies. Listening to stories allow children to imagine as much as scariness they can manage. They can also skip some parts or shut the book whenever the fear overwhelms them.
Explain that monsters don’t really exist. You want to be honest with your child and tell him that monsters exist only in stories and in movies. While it can be difficult, with constant conversations and reminders, your child will learn to distinguish what’s real from what’s not and eventually, realise that no monsters exist under their bed or in their wardrobe.