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Is your child afraid to go to bed?

You know it’s coming…the struggle of transitioning from playing in the living room to upstairs and starting the bedtime routine.

Maybe your child refuses to go upstairs alone. Or wants to turn on all the lights in the hallway and bedrooms. Or wants you to look for boogy men in the closet and under the bed.

Maybe it just started being more difficult, or maybe it’s been a constant challenge.

In most cases, this is a stalling technique. You get annoyed and frustrated and even though it’s negative attention – it’s still attention – and your child is able to delay bedtime for a few minutes (or an hour).

In rare cases, this fear stems from a traumatic event – seeing something graphic on the evening news or the death of a family member. Children are really not prepared for the content on 6pm news and hearing about a shooting or kidnapping may make them feel a little less secure about their world. And learning about a death in the family – even if it’s their 90 year old great grandpa – may start them wondering if you’ll die too…and they won’t want to be apart from you.

If your child just can’t get past that event, then it’s probably a good idea to talk to a professional who can help your child work through those feelings.

The last reason a child would prolong this experience is because he doesn’t feel confident falling asleep on his own. If that’s the case, tackle that issue pronto – because fixing the stalling issues will just be a band-aid on the real problem. (If you need help getting started, click here.)

What can you do to help streamline the bedtime routine?

1. Monitor the content he’s exposed to during the day
Is your 1st grader reading Harry Potter or watching Star Wars? He’s probably not ready for that content yet. It’s important that kids are reading and watching age-appropriate material and shows that aren’t too scary. Their imaginations will run wild!

2. Earlier bedtime
If your child is overtired, he’ll be more emotional and likely to have a meltdown. When kids are going to bed in that optimal window (between 6:30-8pm for most kids), bedtime is a much easier process and they’ll be able to fall asleep quicker.

3. Follow the routine
Is every night different? Sometimes mom puts her to bed, sometimes it’s dad – but they do it completely different! Your child will benefit from a similar bedtime routine each night, regardless of who’s in charge. A good way to keep track is to make a bedtime routine chart (I have lots of examples on my Pinterest board Bedtime Routine Charts) which will help everyone stay on the same page and give some accountability to your child.

4. Get rid of shadows
Turn your child’s bedroom light off and look to see that the night light or hall light isn’t casting shadows around the room. You may want to plug the night light in a different outlet or turn off the hall light.

Something I WOULDN’T do is use “monster spray” or do any ritual to get rid of the boogy men. This actually reinforces the idea that you may actually find one!

If your child still comes out looking for you, just walk him back to his room – no last hugs or cuddles and don’t show frustration. You don’t want to give your child attention for coming out of his room!

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Photo Credit: Deposit Photos | Khakimullin

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