Monsters, ghouls, goblins, and absolutely the most adorable baby costumes! Halloween can be a ton of fun for grownups and little ones alike. But, Halloween season can also mean more nighttime fears for a lot of toddlers and preschoolers. As our 6-year old tried to hide in my jacket as we walked by the seasonal section at Target, I was reminded just how scary this time can be. But, nighttime fears can strike at any time, so today we are bringing 5 tried and true tips to ease these fears so you are always prepared.
1. Minimize Exposure
As I saw a mom bringing her scared and crying one-year old daughter out of the pharmacy after a talking Frankenstein monster spooked her, I began to think there should be kid-safe stores and checkout aisles at Halloween. The truth is that we often won’t have a choice because that prescription needs to be picked up. But, in many stores and malls there are usually areas we can avoid so our little one doesn’t run screaming from a giant skeleton with a maniacal laugh. Until the Thanksgiving decorations are out, my kiddos and I will be skipping the seasonal aisles of any major stores. 😉 Perhaps you, too, can give this a try.
2. Talk it Out
Depending on how old your little one is, they may not be able to express well what they are afraid of, but this is okay. Giving them the space to talk about it, whether at bedtime, or after a “nightmare” can always help. You can even start the conversation with a book – this one about nightmares is great! If they are scared at bedtime, for example, you may find out that the night light might make a shadow on the teddy bear, which is enough to make everything feel spooky. If your little one mentions any specific fears, don’t shush them away; instead try to address them as much as possible. This might mean taking out the teddy bear or moving the position of the night light, for example. Easy fix! It’s also important to try not to make their fears seem silly as they feel very real to them.
3. Empower Them!
This strategy can be a little tricky because empowering a child over their fears can also sometimes mean that you are admitting the fear could be real. So, it is a fine line. Many parents have had good luck with checking the closet and under the bed, and “sweeping away” the scary stuff. Consider letting your little one do the sweeping, too. You can get creative with your strategy! Making a special “monster spray” like water and vinegar or salt, which has long been known to keep even the scariest monsters away – wink, wink 😉 – can be pretty effective with helping your little one feel safe at bedtime. Let them help make the potion and spray it, so they feel empowered.
4. Be There
For some children, having a lovey or “protector” can be enough to help them feel safer and more reassured during the night. But depending on how scared your little one feels, especially if they are going through a separation anxiety phase, only mom or dad will do. Sometimes, when they feel so afraid that it causes them to wake many times during the night, “camping out” in your little one’s room temporarily can help restore their sense of safety. We usually exhaust all other options before moving on to this one, but it can be very effective. Once they see you enough times next to them when they wake, they will begin to sleep through again, and then you can gradually make your way out of the room at bedtime again.
5. Keep it Cool
And, in this case, I don’t mean “keep calm,” although that’s always a good idea. 😉 In this case, we want to make sure that you little one’s room is at a comfortable temperature. This is because being too warm during sleep times has been shown to increase nightmares and night terrors. So, if your little one loves his fleece footie pajamas, try to keep the covers light or the AC adjusted so he doesn’t get too warm during the night.