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Children’s fear of the dark: We shed light on the subject

Does your child sometimes scream late at night? Is he unable to sleep alone in his room or with the lights off? Does he seek your company every night ? Fear of the dark is a very common phobia in young children. However, you mustn’t take it lightly, or your little one could live with this fear for the rest of his or her life. In this article, we’ll tell you all about it: when, how and why achluophobia occurs, and how to treat it to help your little one overcome it. Stay tuned for more!

Un petit garçon métisse avec un pull rayé bleu et blanc. Le garçon se tient les yeux car il a peur du noir.
Fear of the dark is common in children and can have a number of possible causes.

Achluophobia: at what age?

To treat an ailment, you need to know what it is. You need to know what it is and when it started. Find out with us what defines achluophobia and when it can appear.

What is achluophobia?

Achluophobia is the fear of the dark. This fear generally affects growing children. In rare and sometimes isolated cases, adults may also suffer from it.

The fear is not caused by the dark itself. Rather, it comes from the inability to see, creating a feeling of helplessness in the subject. This in turn leads to stress, anxiety, nervousness and sometimes even despair. Depending on the degree of fear, manifestations differ. They can be extreme or attenuated.

The first signs of achluophobia in children

At birth, a child does not yet pay much attention to the environment around him. They are content to follow the habits their parents establish on a daily basis. He will see no difference between sleeping in complete darkness or under the subtle light of a nightlight.

It’s during this period of psychomotor development that our little ones begin to become aware of their surroundings. Fear of the dark generally appears during this phase of a child’s growth, between the ages of 2 and 5. Throughout this stage, your little one will need your support. Neglect on your part could lead to stagnation. Some people who have experienced severe trauma retain this fear throughout their lives.

How can you tell if your child is afraid of the dark?

Fear of the dark can manifest itself in two ways:

  • Physical
  • Emotional

You need to be aware of these different types of symptoms to diagnose achluophobia in your child.

Physical signs

The physical symptoms of achluophobia are sometimes misinterpreted. They are often mistaken for simple illnesses such as indigestion or the onset of a fever. A person afraid of thedark can suffer from stomach pains, which can be attributed to food poisoning. The child may also experience hot or cold flushes. Some may mistake this for signs of the flu or general fatigue. It’s always safer to ask your little one what’s really wrong before jumping to conclusions.

Une fille apeurée qui est dans son lit et tient un ours en peluche. La petite fille a peur du noir
It’s usually at bedtime that the fear of the dark resurfaces..

Other physical manifestations of achluophobia include..:

  • Sweating
  • Dizziness
  • Accelerated heart rate
  • Trembling or tingling
  • Breathing difficulties

Emotional signs

To determine whether your child is indeed suffering from a fear of the dark, emotional and physical symptoms should not be considered separately. They are part of a whole. By interpreting your little one’s feelings, you’ll easily realize that he’s not simply ill.

Fear of thedark can lead to a number of different sensations:

  • Nervousness: manifested by severe sleep disturbances and susceptibility to anything and everything.
  • A state of acute stress: the child can sometimes lose control of his or her body, leading to fits of madness.
  • Panic and anxiety: your little one turns pale, sweats and trembles.
  • Helplessness: accompanied by a feeling of depression at being unable to react.

Why is my child afraid of the dark?

Achild ‘s fear of the dark stems from a number of factors:

  • Traumatic experiences
  • Everyday learning
  • The influence of the environment

A traumatic experience

Your child ‘s fear of the dark may stem from a traumatic experience. For example, a person becomes claustrophobic after being locked up for several hours or days in a confined room. The same applies to achluophobia. Your little one may have been alone in the dark for a long time. Or he may have witnessed a violent scene in the dark.

Une fille triste et battue qui se tient la tête elle a un scotch sur la bouche pour l'empêcher de parler et elle a un oeil au beurre noir
Traumatic experiences can be sources of a child’s fear of the dark

Everyday learning

Education is the basis of everything. By repeating certain phrases on a daily basis,children register everything in their brains. If you often tell him that staying in the dark is dangerous, that he could fall, step on something or hear strange noises, these words will become deeply ingrained.

It’s also a good idea not to watch scary or horror films in the presence of your little one. Scary scenes involving ghosts or killers usually take place in the dark.

The influence of those around you

Fear of the dark can also be transmitted from one person to another. Children are still easily influenced. If you, as a parent, can’t stand the dark, your little one may pick up the habit too. To prevent this from rubbing off on your child, you need to hide your emotions as best you can. By revealing your fear, you unknowingly create a traumatic feeling in your little one.

How do you reassure a child who’s afraid of the dark?

If you don’t act quickly, your child‘s fear of the dark can linger for a very long time. Learn how to reassure your child by:

  • Creating a ritual before bedtime
  • Staying by his side
  • Talking about his fears

Creating a pre-sleep ritual

You know that your child tends to be afraid of the dark. To reassure him and help him sleep soundly, create an evening ritual. For example, you can inspect the bedroom together to check for hiding places where imaginary monsters might be hiding. Look together in the closet, under the bed, behind the door or window.

If you’re religious, you can also invite your child to say a little prayer before bedtime. You can tell him/her that this will ward off evil spirits and summon angels to come and protect him/her from all threats.

Staying by your child’s side

Fear of the dark stems from a feeling of helplessness in the dark. To remedy this situation, your first role is to give your child courage. You need to make him feel protected, and that nothing will happen to him as long as you’re with him. Your presence alone will comfort your little one and enable him to quickly dispel his fears. If need be, invite him to sleep in your room to spend the night peacefully.

Une petite fille qui a peur dans le bras de sa maman. La petite fille ferme les yeux car elle a peur du noir
You’ll often be the only comfort your child can rely on in case of fear

Discussing your child’s fears together

To be able to reassure your child, you need to know exactly what he’s afraid of. It could be ghosts, nocturnal animals or monsters hiding under their bed or in their closet. By talking openly with your child, you can explain that certain entities don’t exist, but have only been imagined by man. For example, ask him to lie under the bed with you for a few minutes to see if there really is something there. Take him to the closet to prove that nothing in there will hurt him.

How can I help my child stop being afraid of the dark?

A child‘s fear of the dark is usually a passing phase. But you need to help them overcome it. Here are a few tips to help:

  • A nightlight
  • A comforter
  • Developing self-confidence

A nightlight

A nightlight or bedside lamp is not just a decorative accessory for achild‘s bedroom. Its primary role is to subtly illuminate the room at night. This can help your little one to stop being afraid of the dark. Indeed,achluophobia generally manifests itself when the individual concerned finds himself in totaldarkness.

A cuddly toy

A comforter is a familiar object with the power to reassure your child. With a comforter in hand, your little one will feel protected, as if in possession of a powerful, magical talisman. You can also tell him a story about how the comforter can ward off malevolent spirits. Fear of the dark will no longer take hold of him, and as he gets older, he’ll naturally part with his comforter.

Building your child’s self-confidence

Fear of the dark is also a question of self-confidence. Your child doesn’t feel strong enough to face up to what he imagines he’ll find in thedark. Your role then is to give him courage and develop his self-esteem. To do this:

  • Compare him, for example, to his favorite superheroes. Tell him he can be as strong as them if he wants to be.
  • On a daily basis, let your child act on his own and become autonomous.
  • Reward him for his achievements.
  • Give him responsibilities at home.

How do you put a child who’s afraid of the dark to sleep?

A child who has woken up during the night sometimes has trouble getting back to sleep. Here are a few tips to help them fall asleep again:

  • Reading a story
  • Sing or play a lullaby

Reading a story

One of the best ways to reassure your child who’s afraid of the dark is to divert his attention. However, letting him play with your cell phone is out of the question. The blue light emitted by your mobile phone risks dissipating your little one’s sense of sleep. This will make it difficult for him to return to Morpheus’ arms.

Instead, we recommend reading him a pleasant story. To do this, pick a book from your little one’s library that will help him fight off his fear. Children’s tales, superhero stories or maybe even a comic book will do the trick. During your performance, try to use different voices and make your little one laugh.

Sing or play a lullaby

Like the story, music will help distract your child from frightening thoughts. If he wakes up in the middle of the night, sing him a soft song he likes. You can also send him a lullaby recorded on his smart alarm clock, for example. You can opt for Disney soundtracks or credits from his favorite cartoons. It’ll cheer him up. But be careful! Don’t turn the volume all the way up.

Your child’s fear of the dark: what you need to remember

Fear of the dark is a phobia that needs to be taken very seriously in children, otherwise it could follow them for the rest of their lives. Achluophobia does not appear in babies until the age of 2. Children aged 3 to 5 are the most likely to experience this emotion. Look out for warning signs such as stomach pains, heavy sweating followed by cold sweats or anxiety attacks.

To reassure your little one and help him overcome his fear, listen carefully to his needs. You can also tryredesigning the nursery to make it more reassuring. Tell him happy stories or sing him lullabies and, most importantly, build up his self-confidence. To help him fall asleep peacefully, don’t leave him in total darkness. Install a nightlight in his room for extra light.

Avoid watching horror movies with your children. What about you? How have you experienced your child’s achluophobia? What advice would you give to parents currently experiencing this situation? We invite you to share your experience with us in the comments.

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