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How do I deal with sudden fear of the dark?

My just-shy-of-3 years old stepson has all of a sudden become afraid of the dark, or so it seems. Speculation may also point to not wanting to be alone & jealousy of the new baby in the house. He's only with us every other weekend with his 6 year old sister & we have a 3 month old in the house full time. Just this weekend, when we'd put him to bed, he would begin to wail that he's scared to leave the door open and light on. We don't leave his bedroom light on (because he will just play with his toys once we leave the room) so we leave the bathroom light on just outside his bedroom & a nightlight in his room. He will wake up 2-3 times during the night wailing & sobbing, traipsing to our room with his blankie saying he's scared, but he won't tell us what he's afraid of.

His sister began the "scared of the dark" stuff when the youngest was born. We've left the bathroom or hallway light on for her as well. (con'td)

Answer Question

Asked by Anonymous at 9:24 AM on Sep. 13, 2009 in Preschoolers (3-4)

Answers (7)
  • My dd has a light up glo bear we got her from Walmart....its really soothing.

    It turns different colors......its white when its off.....

    Or maybe a really cool night light or lava lamp that he picks out. Something to distract....

    Answer by mom2twobabes at 9:26 AM on Sep. 13, 2009

  • I think he is just feeling a little insecure with the new baby. What does his Mom say? Is this happening at his house too? Is there anyway you would allow him to sleep on the floor by your bed? He may just want reassurance that DD is still going to be there for him and the new baby isn't going to take his place. We got my DS a glow worm to sleep with, but at least twice a week he marches in to our room afraid! I just go back to his room and lay down for a few minutes with him, and usually that does the trick, I don't think he is reall afraid of the dark, it seems like there is plenty of light, between the nightlite and the bathroom, probably just insecure. Good luck and thanks for being a good step mommy and now new mommy! It is refreshing to see someone concerened about their step kids too!

    Answer by kimigogo at 9:31 AM on Sep. 13, 2009

  • She's okay with just the light. I'm just not sure how to deal with it. Of course I want to comfort him and make him feel safe and wanted, but I also want him to learn to deal with things in his own way, and I would like to help guide him. I am a first time mom and stepmom, so forgive my ignorance of the situation. Any advice would be appreciated!

    Answer by Anonymous at 9:32 AM on Sep. 13, 2009

  • I forgot to add that his mother hasn't mentioned a thing, but I will say that both their parents are very laid back and don't necessarily let the kids do whatever, but they like to "let the kids learn on their own what not to do." Which, at 6 and 3 I find to be lackadaisical. Just this morning I found the 6 year old climbing on the counters to get a bowl for her cereal. I asked daddy if he had given her permission, he says, "I've never stopped her before, so I guess."

    He doesn't seem concerned about the waking up during the night either. I'm not even sure how to bring it up to him. He and I don't see eye to eye on disciplining the kids and he's very laid back about the insecurity problems. (We're going through some VERY tough times right now financially and instead of dealing with it badly, he's not dealing with it at all.)

    Answer by Anonymous at 9:45 AM on Sep. 13, 2009

  • OOH kind of stick situation! You gotta be careful not to come across as the evil step monster! I was a step mom for a long time and the thing you need to remember (as much as you have to grit your teeth} These are not your kids, you cannot discipline them, that is up to their parents! Our job is to smile and make sure no one dies! I thinks some family counseling might be in order, and maybe you could address the finacial situation with the help of a counsler. Good luck!

    Answer by kimigogo at 10:12 AM on Sep. 13, 2009

  • I would suggest family counseling as well for the underlying tension, but as for his fears:
    Give him something special, a wand, a squirt bottle of water, something he can hold. Tell him that whenever he waves/squirts/whatever action the object is used for, Jesus or whatever God you pray to will come and stay with him at night and keep him safe. At age 3, they have a hard time separating fantasy from reality and they start to remember dreams, particularly scary ones. During the day, involve him with the baby's care, and set aside 15-30 mins a day, no matter what, where you two or three(include his dad if you want) spend together and only you. Make it all about him.
    he is fearful for a reason, but it is stemming from his insecurity over his place on the family.

    Answer by mama4Christ361 at 10:48 AM on Sep. 13, 2009

  • Maybe you and your SS could play an 'in the dark game' You could play fun things so that the dark doesn't seem scary, just another way to have fun. Also try the glow in the dark stars, (those are the coolest things!) that way their is a special surprise for him in his room when the lights are off.

    Answer by Domzmom2005 at 8:55 PM on Sep. 13, 2009

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