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I believe that the fear of dark, once sets in, doesn't leave easily.

The toddler is 13 months old. She starts crying if left alone when the light goes off at night. She clings to me as long as the light doesn't come back.

Even if the other rooms are properly lit and she's not alone in the house, she doesn't dare to enter the kitchen if its dark.

I mentioned kitchen because it is attached to our living room. Last time when she was playing with a toy, the toy ran in the kitchen accidentally. I was sitting besides her and I told her to go in the kitchen and bring the toy. Instead, she just sat near the kitchen door and started crying while pointing towards the toy.

When I lit the kitchen she went and brought the toy out.

This toddler can run and climb on the sofas, beds, and the window grills, and neither she's afraid of heights and fast swings etc.

BTW, I am 31 years old and quite afraid of the dark.

  • 2
    I think fear of the dark is perfectly normal . . . it wasn't more than six or seven thousand years ago that there really were monsters in the dark, and a child alone in the dark would not live to see the dawn. – Marc Aug 5 '14 at 23:52
  • We introduced our daughter to The Monster Under The Bed, and once he was her pet she trained him to jump out at other people. – pojo-guy Jul 2 '17 at 18:28
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13 months is not that old.

My 14 month old cries if left alone in a room too long, period! (aka more than 5 min unless he is deeply engrossed in stacking something)

have you considered:

  • When she is in her room in the dark, it is separation anxiety and not fear of the dark? Does she cry when if the light is still on?

  • How does she react to low light, like a night lamp? That is quite common for babies, and kids, to have, and doesn't mean they will fear the dark when older.

  • Are you afraid when sitting with her in the dark? She probably picks up on your non-verbal clues.

  • For going and picking up toys: She probably hasn't walked for very long, maybe she is worried about falling?

  • Is she maybe afraid of going in there alone? What if you goes with her in the dark?

  • lastly, have you considered an eyesight issue? Maybe she just doesn't see as well in the dark as she should? Some people have very bad night vision/

I think that most 13 months old are afraid of being alone, and see what happens if you look at it from that angle. Not being afraid of climbing and jumping off things has more to do with in-ability to understand the consequences - I have not personally seen caution as a trait in kids until 2 years of age.

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The ways we handled this issue:

  • gradually let the get used to the dark by employing low-power nightlights

  • when the child is a little older (3-4) explain about night vision in low light and demonstrate how it works. SOMETIMES the fear of the dark is simply about fear of not seeing.

  • This is the approach that I've used with our boys. I was open about the fact that it's normal and acceptable to be afraid of the dark. The quote: "BTW, I am 31 years old and quite afraid of the dark." is both funny and relevant. Say that it's okay to be nervous and mitigate the problem by using a dim night light to take the edge of the darkness. Ensure that the children can't see the light, just the reflected glow it gives off. Looking at any kind of light, even a dim one, will impact on your night vision which makes the problem worse. – Dave M Aug 14 '14 at 9:08
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Whenever our son expressed fear of the dark, we sat with him and tried to explain his emotions to him. We'd say things like:

  • "It's scary in the dark isn't it?"
  • "It's not nice being on your own when the light's off is it?"

This helped him to understand why he was scared, to give it context.

We then got a night light for his room and every night would tell him:

  • "Look, your special light is on so you can see."

Whenever he was scared we would sit with him until he calmed down. To be honest, his fear wasn't extreme so this was quite easy for us.

Because he needs to face his fears, when we'd leave and he'd object, we'd try to encourage him with things like:

  • "You can stay here in the dark because Mr. Bear is looking after you as well"
  • "You'll be alright because you're brave like a lion"

We also made clear that if he was too afraid, he could always:

  • Call us if he needed us
  • Come into our bedroom to get us

Eventually, he built up the courage. It's a long and frustrating journey for parents, but worth it.

And if you think being scared of the dark is bad...you wait until they think crabs are going to get him and all his teddies! :)

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The fear of darkness is almost a common phenomenon among the children, unfortunately some children grow along with the fear of darkness called night phobia. There are some non-clinical terminologies that actually defines this state of fear as Nyctophobia, Achluophobia, Scotophobia.

The child develops the fear of darkness because of a traumatic experience in the past. Like as a punishment the child might have been left in the dark, movies, tv shows and stories portraying horror, domestic violence too contribute to this kind of fear.

The practical way of annihilation of fear of darkness is to: clarify that the fear is irrational. Instill loads of confidence. Develop friendly relationship Adopt self help techniques. Resort to meditation and Positive visualization.

  • I am certain that some children do experience trauma that leads to fear of the dark or whatever but, I seriously doubt the general fear of the dark that many or most children experience is due to any trauma at all. Many parents leave a light on so they can check on the child. In some ways we teach them to sleep in low light. When we remove that as the child ages, that is when the child notices the dark. – WRX Jan 13 '17 at 12:49
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  1. Toddlers are afraid when they sense that their parents are afraid. Since you're afraid of the dark yourself, it will be harder to signal that everything is fine to your kid. Consider working on your fear of the dark and/or on your "everything is fine" signaling skills.

  2. Toddlers are afraid of effects that they can't name. Consider teaching words for light and dark and lamp and on and off, to be able to talk about the "physics" of light in the house.

    For example, you could say "It is dark. I'm turning the light on. Here is the switch. See, now the light is on" when you are turning the light on, and something similar when you are turning the light off.

  3. Toddlers are afraid of effects that they don't understand the cause or purpose of. Consider teaching that the light is made by lamps, and that the lamps are controlled by switches. Consider teaching to operate the switches.

    For example, when your kid doesn't want to enter the dark kitchen, you could say "It is dark. Should we turn on the light? Where is the switch?" and then let the kid point to the switch. Then you could take up the kid and hold it next to the switch to operate it. Hopefully, this would teach both the connection of darkness, light, lamps and switches, and it would teach that as humans, we usually don't have to accept the darkness if we don't want to.

  4. Toddlers are afraid of not seeing. Consider teaching your kid that one can see in almost darkness.

    For example, establish a pointing game ("where is my nose? Where is my ear? Where is my other ear?") with normal light and then play it after being together in almost darkness for some time. Point out that the kid can see in the almost darkness.

  5. Parenting is harder for areas where you're afraid that something bad (like developing everlasting fear of dark) is happening to your kid. Try to relax and remember that most people don't fear the dark, and that probably, your kid will outgrow this soon, independently of your parenting. If you manage to relax about this, your efforts towards it might become more effective.

    For example, think of other things your kid learned on its own without you having to do anything special.

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