What can I do about my child’s fear of monsters?

        All children have bedtime fears. They worry about a monster in the closet, an alligator under the bed, or a skeleton at the window. Such frightening images are part of a child’s internal world. At night, when the stimulations and distractions of the day are over, he may begin to focus on this world and on the anxious thoughts and feelings that were stirred up during the day. Worries about a new school, a move, or parents’ arguments can cause him to feel afraid. And bedtime darkness makes him feel even more scared and vulnerable.

       Fears of monsters, witches, and other bad things sometimes originate with a child’s own anger. Adults seldom remember the intensity of childhood emotions. Anger is often rage—the determination to have, to control, and to do for themselves is very strong in children. And because they are egocentric, children assume that adults feel the same things they do. A child who’s angry enough to hurt someone or destroy something may believe that the powerful adults around him, like monsters, feel angry enough to hurt him. This is a scary proposition.

       Because a child isn’t comfortable with hostile thoughts aimed at his parents, he unconsciously projects his own feelings onto them or onto monsters. Instead of thinking, “I’m so angry at Mom and Dad,” he thinks, “Mom and Dad are angry at me.” The result of this projection can be an increased fear of monsters and other frightening creatures.

       The specific scary images that frighten a child can be introduced by a television show, a movie, a fairy tale, or even a picture in a book. Some parents who try to alleviate their child’s fears by showing him a book about nice monsters may actually be giving him something else to be afraid of. This can happen because he has difficulty distinguishing what is real from what is not. Once he sees a picture of a monster, even a harmless one, he may be convinced that such a thing exists. Therefore, parents may want to keep a sensitive child from seeing scary books, television shows, or movies.

       If your child tells you he’s frightened of monsters, try to reassure him. For example, you can say, “Sometimes children think that monsters are real, but I know there are no such things. You’re very safe here.” Be careful not to pressure him into agreeing that his fears are irrational. And don’t dismiss his fears by saying, “Don’t be afraid.” Children who are told their fears are silly will continue to feel afraid, but may not openly express themselves because they anticipate being ridiculed or shamed. Instead, they may cry, cling, or have frequent scary dreams.

       Try to get your child to express his fears, since talking can help him deal with them. The inability to discuss fears can make them feel more real and give them more power. You might ask him, “What does a monster do? What does it look like? Can you draw a picture of it? Where did you think you saw it?” Such questions will help you learn more about what frightens your child. When he’s scared, you may have to spend more time than usual sitting with him, reassuring him at bed-time. You may feel more patients about this if you remember your own childhood fears. Although you may have received assurances from your parents, you still believed that frightening things lurked in the closets and under the bed.

       No matter how long you sit with your child, talk with him, or comfort him, he won’t give up his fears easily. You can help him best by consistently being available to reassure and comfort him.

 Picture Credit : Google