*A collaborative post
Every night we have the same ritual for bedtime. It’s wash, get changed into our pjs, read a story then bed. It’s a routine Olly is familiar with and as he climbs into bed, we pop on his nightlight and then we kiss him goodnight. Our son Olly is four and is afraid of the dark.
Olly and sleep have always had a turbulent relationship. For many of his early years, he just didn’t sleep. He would wake up at silly o’clock in the early hours of the morning and then finally dose off just as it was time for me to get up for work. It was exhausting. Finally at the age of four, he’ll sleep really well going to bed between 7:30pm and 8pm and sleeping straight through until 7:30am the next day. Although he sleeps well now, he doesn’t like his room to be dark, he insists that there’s a light on and asks us to leave his bedroom door open.
5 ways to reassure children who are afraid of the dark
Olly is afraid of the dark and I’m sure it’s just an age thing. He’s so perceptive of the world around him that he soaks everything in, overthinks things and worries about them. Over the years, we’ve taken advice from a baby and toddler sleep expert (thank you Fi) and here’s how we reassure Olly at night time when it’s time to go to sleep.
Invest in a night light
It’s important for children to know when it’s time to sleep and when it’s time for them to wake up and so keeping their room with as minimal light as possible is always advised at night. We figured that we would rather not stress him out by insisting it was pitch black in his room so we bought Olly a nightlight and it has really helped. What2buy4kids has a great selection of night lights for small children. Our favourites are the Dragon Cuddle Buddy, Balloon Dog night light and the Rocket Sleepy Light. What2buy4kids is an online toy shop for children with a huge range of toys and gifts and is a great place to source age appropriate products for children.
It is so frustrating when your child doesn’t want to go to bed let alone sleep. It has driven me to tears on many occasions but there was one defining moment when I realised it wasn’t doing me or my child any good. I was working myself up (there was a million and one things I wanted to get done and Olly wasting time wasn’t helping my stress levels) and Olly was picking up on my frustrations and fuelling his own fire with them. He needed to feel safe and secure all of which contributes to him feeling comfortable enough to fall asleep despite his fears. Remaining calm is one of life’s great skills when you’ve got a child, some days it takes all the strength in the world to remain calm despite the flapping you might be doing beneath the surface.
Don’t read scary books at bedtime
Reading stories at bedtime is part of our nightly routine but we always read a story that doesn’t set Olly’s imagination alight. Reading about monsters, ghosts or the unknown or unexplainable is never a good idea. Keep to stories that children are familiar with and make them smile rather than worry or concern them.
Let them take a comfort blanket or toy to bed
Olly has many teddies that he calls his friends and often takes them all to bed with him (seriously there is very little space for him once they’re all in bed!) but they help him feel at ease and they’re his comfort blanket. They make him feel safe and secure and it’s really rather cute. There will soon come a time where they don’t want teddies or blankets so letting them sleep with their favourite teddy is a moment to cherish.
Talk to your child
Communication is such a powerful skill and a child that feels able to speak up when they’re afraid will reduce anxiety they have when they go to bed. Reassure your child that they are safe and where you will be if they wake in the night. Talking is a great medicine and can really help calm children at night. Speak softly and calmly and with any luck, you’ll hear gentle snores in no time.