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My son is 2 years old. He's never been afraid of the dark but today he got scared all of a sudden after seeing his shadow in a dim room. He couldn't stop crying out that there were monsters. He was very afraid. Can you offer advice on how to handle this? His behaviour and "monsters mommy monsters" kept on throughout our bedtime routine.


Brenda Nixon, M.A. Replied: All children go through a phase where they are afraid of . . . monsters or spiders or loud noises or going down the drain or whatever. It's important for you to remain calm and try to soothe him without making too much of a fuss about it. If he senses you're annoyed or impatient with him, it could make it worse. On the other hand, don't try to reason with a 2 year old and point out that his fears are invalid; to him the fears are very real. There used to be a wonderful book "Children's Fears" by Dr. Benjamin Wolman that I recommended parents read. It's an oldie (probably out of print) but a goodie. You might find this book - or a similar one - at your local library.
Posted On 2009-04-04 20:03:21
Trish Booth, MA Replied: During periods when children make big strides toward independence, they are likely to have moments of upset that show their dependence. It's common for monsters and ghosts to show up at these times. Nighttime is a prime time for fears and needs for reassurance. Your response needs to be a balance between meeting his immediate need for extra assurance and avoiding long-term changes in his bedtime routine. The monsters come from an emotional need. There is no point in rational explanations that monsters do not exist, that it is just his shadow, how shadows are made, etc. You can acknowledge your son's reaction by "I see you are very upset." Offer to hold him. While you are providing the reassurance of your arms, or at least touching him, firmly tell the monsters to leave. Then calmly report you don't see them any more. If he still does, turn on a light to change the shadow pattern. Another time you may have to rearrange the items that are casting the shadow. Reassure him, again, the monsters have gone and turn off the light. Then, have a toy stand guard through the night. This should be an important toy but not his favorite or his lovey. Explain that Mr. Bear will stand guard and keep the monsters away. Or, that monsters are afraid of red trucks and will stay away. Try to resume his normal bedtime routine so that he can have the reassurance of that familiarity. If the monsters come back for several nights, consider adding a night light if he doesn't have one. Go through the monster expulsion routine when he raises the issue but don't start the ritual as a preventative.
Posted On 2007-01-30 19:03:32
Pamela Waterman Replied: Your son is advanced for two years old! This behavior usually come a little later - he must be a thinker! Here are several things to try. During the daytime, show him under the bed - let him use a flashlight; perhaps even move the bed for him and let him see everything during the day. You can also try reading to him from a book such as "There's a Monster in My Closet." Let him make his own shadows. My sister and I loved making our own stuffed-animal shadows dance when we lay in bed at night (they were lined up on a shelf). Give him a flashlight (again, you might start during the day) and let him line up several small stuffed animals on a table or on the bed, and have him shine the light to make the shadows. Show him that if he moves the light, the shadows move, too. Let him be in control of making them go sideways or up and down, or get small or large as he moves the flashlight in and out. You can also let him shine it on you, while you move, so he sees that Mommies have nice shadows, and then finally you can make his shadow. Maybe you can put music on and have him dance, and see his shadow dance. Lastly, does he use a night-light? If not, that could help. There are also flashlights that shut off automatically, if he wants to play with it in bed for a while. And always, realize he may need to come to you in the night once in a while for comfort. Good luck!
Posted On 2007-01-30 12:34:15
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