May 16, 2023

How to help your child overcome bedtime fears

Jane Magnani
Jane Magnani
How to help your child overcome bedtime fears

Bedtime can sometimes be challenging, especially for young children who may feel scared or anxious about going to bed at night. In addition, they may have concerns about experiencing bad dreams or being frightened of the dark. Fortunately, there are various strategies you can implement to make the bedtime routine more manageable and peaceful.

Here are some additional ways you can do to help them:

  • Take a moment to focus on the good things. Ask them to share what they enjoyed the most or what made them laugh today.

  •  If they wake up from a frightening dream, suggest a positive vision and help them choose a happier dream to focus on.

  • Here's an effective technique to get rid of a bad dream. It may seem silly, but it can be helpful. Ask your little one to imagine removing the dream as if pulling it out of their brain. Then, suggest that they pretend to throw it out of the window without getting up. Assist them in visualising and throwing it away together.

  • When your little one needs comfort, a gentle touch can work wonders. Try stroking their arm from shoulder to hand or tracing slow circles on their back. And remember their hair - some children find it incredibly soothing when rubbed. With these simple gestures, you can help your child feel safe, secure, and loved.

Talk about their emotions and feelings

Recognising and acknowledging your child's fears is crucial. Show empathy towards their concerns and let them know you understand them. Sharing your own experiences and perspective can also help them feel more at ease and comfortable expressing their fears to you. This will help them realise that their feelings are normal and that sometimes feeling scared or worried is okay.

Create a calm bedtime routine

Establishing a peaceful and soothing bedtime routine can have numerous benefits as it prepares your little one for a good night's rest.

  • A great way to relax and prepare for sleep is by taking a bath. You can also use this time to practice mindfulness with your little one. Pay attention to the present moment, the sound of the water, and the sensations on their skin. Add some bubbles to enhance the sensory experience. Take the time to appreciate the scents and textures and how they make you both feel.

  • A lovely way to wind down for the night with your child is to share a bedtime story or sing some of their favourite songs or rhymes. As they drift off to sleep, consider singing a calming lullaby to help them relax.

  • One way to help someone feel less lonely when sleeping is by suggesting they cuddle with a favourite soft toy or a soft blanket. This can provide comfort and a sense of security.

  • You can help your little one relax their muscles by practising muscle relaxation exercises together. Simply ask them to tense each set of muscles, hold for a few seconds, and then release. You can start with their toes and move up to their legs, bottom, tummy, shoulders, arms, hands, and face. Encourage them to notice how their muscles become soft and relaxed after each exercise.


Prepare the environment

To help your child feel more relaxed and less anxious about bedtime, it's essential to check and set up a comfortable sleeping environment.

  • Provide a night light to alleviate your child's anxiety during bedtime. As time passes, you can gradually switch to dimmer lights emitting a soft, warm glow. 

  • Consider leaving their bedroom door slightly ajar with a hallway light on. This will create a subtle sense of connection and comfort as long as it remains quiet.

  • Ensure that all wardrobe doors are properly closed, and no clothes are left hanging behind them. It's also important to remove any toys that may be casting shadows, as this can sometimes cause young children to become frightened by their imagination. 

  • It's essential to check on your child occasionally if they feel anxious about being alone. Tell them you'll come back to check on them in five minutes. If they're still awake, reassure them again and inform them you'll return in 10 minutes. Repeat this process until they fall asleep, ensuring they feel safe and secure.

  • Each time, increase the amount of time before you check-in. Go to 15 minutes, then 20 minutes, and so on. Ensure you only spend a little while reassuring them when you check-in.

  • If your little one feels highly distressed and you believe they won't be able to sleep unless you are with them, staying with them for a brief period is acceptable. However, it is advisable to refrain from making a habit of it or doing it consecutively for two nights. Otherwise, your child may depend on you to comfort them or assume they cannot sleep without your presence.

Be patient

Patience and persistence are key when establishing new bedtime routines for your little one. Setting new expectations may take time if they have been coming into your room or running out of their own for several months.

It's essential to go at your child's pace and take things step by step.

Book list to help your little one conquer their night-time fears:

A Bedtime Yarn by Nicola Winstanley

Frankie's mother gives him a ball of yarn to help him feel less scared about sleeping alone. As she knits in the next room, the yarn acts as a connection between them. Holding onto the thread inspires Frankie's dreams; each night, he dreams of a different colour based on the yarn he holds.

The Moon Inside by Sandra V. 

Ella loves the colour yellow and the bright, sunny daytime. So every night when the sun disappears, Ella feels scared. But she soon discovers that there are many things to love about the nighttime, too, like glowing fireflies and the moon's colour. 

The Dream Jar by Lindan Lee Johnson 

In this delightful picture book, a big sister uses the Dream Jar to teach her little sister how to turn nightmares into exciting and enchanting experiences through engaging verse and stunning illustrations.

Love Monster & the Scary Something by Rachel Bright

It's bedtime, and everyone in Cutesville besides Love Monster is sleeping. Or are they? Love Monster's imagination may be running wild, but will he be able to face his fears?

Orion and the Dark by Emma Yarlett

Orion has many fears, but the one that scares him the most is the dark. However, this bedtime story shows how he overcomes his greatest fear and teaches us that bedtime doesn't have to be scary. He learns that the dark can be a friend and that some of the darkest places can be the most enjoyable.

Kipper's Monster by Mick Inkpen

Kipper and Tiger plan to go camping to try out their new flashlight. However, while they read a frightening book, the scary tale appears to be becoming a reality outside their tent in the eerie and obscure forest.


Join 1000's of families learning at home

Get 3 months of free access to our award-winning nursery education app.