“There’s a monster under my bed,” is a phrase that parents often hear from their young child. But how seriously should parents take this fear. Dr. Richard Sherman, a clinical psychologist in Los Angeles says, “Monster fear is real. This is a very common problem among children between the ages 3 and 6.”
Children in this age group have very active imaginations. Along with imaginary friends and play they often create imaginary monsters that seem real to them. Distinguishing between imagination and reality can be difficult. Dr. Sherman advises, “Parents need to take these concerns seriously rather than simply telling their children that monsters do not exist.” It’s like telling an adult not to be afraid of being mugged when walking down a dark alley at night. Of course you’re going to be afraid it’s how you deal with the fear that is important.
Acknowledge your child’s fears and validate that it is okay to be afraid, assure them that you will help, and then suggest ways that your child can fight back:
- You can help your child by providing them with a flashlight that they can shine on the monster’s hiding places.
- Play games at dusk so your child gets comfortable in the dark.
- Don’t allow your child to watch scary television shows or movies that feature monsters.
- You might try reading books about children who overcome their fears about monsters. My favorites are “Too Many Monsters” in which a boy learns that monsters are afraid of ducks and quacking makes them run away, and “Go away, Big Green Monster” in which the child builds a monster’s face then slowly makes it go away.
- Some parents have a nighttime ritual of looking in all the places monsters might be hiding and reassuring their child that the room is monster free.
- You might consider putting a monster protection charm in your child’s room, which could be as simple as a smiley face keychain.
“The key to helping children defeat imaginary monsters is to make them feel empowered, while disposing of their nightmare creations,” Dr. Sherman says. With acknowledgement and a little creative thinking parents can ensure that there are no monsters under their child’s bed.