It’s one of the best known fears, one we’ve all been through. It’s so scary that most horror films are based on it. We’re talking about fear of the dark.
It’s very common among children between 4 and 6. At that age, imagination runs wild and it fills darkness with ghosts and monsters. Why do we develop this anxiety? It’s thought that it is a magnification of the fear of abandonment, incremented by the lack of visual referents: we’re alone, disoriented and unprotected. Any kind of threat can pounce on us and succeed.
Given how common this is, there are several available solutions. The most recurrent one is showing the children they don’t have anything to fear, and that the parents will be at the other side of the door, never leaving them alone. It’s very important that they associate darkness with peacefulness and rest. Effective ways of achieving this are, for example, letting the child choose his own pyjamas or reading them a book in dim lighting before going to sleep.
Getting them to bed with a fluffy toy they can sleep with, plugging small night lights in or leaving the door ajar so they can hear the adults on the other side are also quite effective methods.
Specialists don’t recommend showing the children that there aren’t any monsters under the bed or in the closet, because it’s a way of admitting that someone or something could hide in any of those spaces.
As we have already said, fear of the dark is very common and easy to deal with. However, there are times when “home” remedies don’t work. If this is the case, the best thing is to consult a specialist. Most of the time the help and comprehension of the parents is enough.