|

Expert Iconexpert advice MORE

Children's Fears

Elementary School Expert Advice from Barbara Potts

Q: Our daughter will be eight in September and for the last four weeks has been having fears at bedtime and doesn't want my husband or myself to leave the room until she is asleep. Sometimes we lay down with her and she falls asleep quickly. Other times she isn't sleepy and will stay awake just to be with us.

We don't want her to come down to the family room because she wants to fall asleep there. We tell her to go into her room and she becomes frantic, saying she is afraid. This came out of the blue. We don't know what to do with her. I need time to myself at night.

A: Fears can pop up at any age, seemingly without warning. Since this one came on so suddenly you may want to find out if there was some precipitating event. A move to a new house, a story on the news, watching a scary television show or movie, the separation of a friend's parents, an illness or death in the family -- all of these can bring on new fears at bedtime.

Talk with your daughter about what is causing her to be afraid. Don't worry if she can't tell you, as she may not know or may not be able to put it into words. Ask her what she is afraid will happen. Assure her that you will be down the hall in the family room and ask what she thinks could happen with you sitting close by. Talking through the possibilities will help you understand the fear better and be able to reassure her that the scary things will not happen.

You can do some very basic things to help her get through this. A new nightlight for her room, leaving the door open with the hall or bathroom light on, or leaving a dim light on in her room may help. You could give her a special flashlight that she can turn on herself to check her room when needed.

Your daughter does need to be able to go to sleep by herself. Reassure her that you will be close by, that you will come if she needs you, and that you have confidence that she can overcome this fear. Don't belittle her for this; you can probably remember how real your fears were when you were young. Be sure to praise her in the morning after a successful night.

Many children need a constant routine, and different bedtimes and waking times during the summer are difficult for them. Once school starts and her routine is reestablished this may get easier. She may also be picking up on your need for time to yourself. Reassure her of her importance to you.

If none of the above works, and this continues for a period of months, you may want to ask your daughter's school counselor or pediatrician for a referral to a therapist for further help.

More on: Expert Advice

Barbara Potts has worked as an elementary school counselor for many years. She has a BA in psychology from Wake Forest University, and an M.Ed. in Guidance and Counseling from the University of North Carolina at Greensboro.


Please note: This "Expert Advice" area of FamilyEducation.com should be used for general information purposes only. Advice given here is not intended to provide a basis for action in particular circumstances without consideration by a competent professional. Before using this Expert Advice area, please review our General and Medical Disclaimers.

stay connected

Sign up for our free email newsletters and receive the latest advice and information on all things parenting.

Enter your email address to sign up or manage your account.

Facebook icon Twitter icon Follow Us on Pinterest

editor’s picks

highlights

Join BIC on our mission to save handwriting and Fight For Your Write! Writing helps kids become better readers, boosts their confidence and sparks their creativity. Visit BICFightForYourWrite.com to sign our petition to save handwriting!

7 Tips for Reading Aloud to Babies & Toddlers
The AAP advises reading aloud to babies and toddlers because it boosts brain power and has many other benefits. Get some tips for making the most of story time with your tot!

Kindergarten Readiness App Wins Gold
Our Kindergarten Readiness app won the Gold Award of Excellence in the educational category at the 2014 Communicator Awards. This valuable checklist comes with games and activities to help your child practice the essential skills she needs for kindergarten. Download the Kindergarten Readiness app today!

How to Survive Summer Boredom
When the kids are home all day, every day, summer boredom strikes hard and fast. Learn the best summer boredom busters and tips for surviving until September.

12 Birthday Party Favors that Won't Get Thrown Away
The next time you're planning a birthday, forgo the penny candy and cheap toys. Send your guests home with one of these fun and creative party favor ideas!