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Sleep Email Series Issue1234

Fear of Sleeping

Fear of sleeping - including nightmares and a general fear of the dark - is a very common issue with ​young children. Unfortunately, it's also a common cause of bedtime disruptions and sleepless nights for Mom and Dad.

As mentioned in the previous email, following proper sleep hygiene is very important when it comes to getting a young child off to sleep on time. It can also play a role in calming a child's fear of sleeping by creating a familiar atmosphere at bedtime. After all, fear of the dark is really fear of the unknown.

There are several small things you can do to help a young child overcome fear of the dark and nightmares. One is to make up a bottle of "monster spray." Add a few drops of lemon juice to some water and put it in a spray bottle. Before bed, spray it behind the door and under the bed - any other place "monsters" can hide. (Explain that monsters hate sour things like lemon juice.) Put the spray away until the next bedtime. It too must become a part of the routine, but you don't want your child interrupting you in the middle of the night for another squirt.

Another simple trick is to plug in a little nightlight in your child's room. This will give just enough light to banish fears while allowing enough darkness for your child to sleep. Be aware, however, that nightlights in dark rooms can cast odd shadows, and this could make the problem worse.

Teaching Activity

Monster Proofing

This week, use the information provided in the first part of this email to try to get your little one to sleep through the night with the lights off. If he or she is unable to do so, try the "monster spray" and/or nightlight tricks. You can also "tour" your child's bedroom with him or her during the day, making sure you look in every nook and cranny to demonstrate there's nothing to fear when the lights go out.

Social Skills

Communicating With Your Child

When explaining to your child that there's no reason to be afraid of the dark, it's helpful to communicate using the following method:

  • Talk - Talk face to face and look into each other's eyes.
  • No Distractions - Remove all distractions. Turn off electronic devices, put down toys and set aside the newspaper.
  • Level - Get on your child's level.
  • Communicate - Use simple, clear words. Show and tell what you mean. Teach good listening skills.

Of course, the usefulness of this approach goes beyond simply talking about the dark or sleep; it is also ideal for communicating with your child on just about everything.

Coming up in Issue 3

Refusing to Sleep


Cold Turkey Method


Persevering on Tasks & Projects

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