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Our son suddenly started to panic last night and saying there is a owl on the wall. He turned 3 yesterday. What he was pointing to was shadow of wall by the light coming from outside. He was too scared and we have to turn him around to make him fall asleep but I could see him sleeping scared in morning.

Now he is crying after seeing floodlight outside of house turn auto on when someone crosses.

What is happening and how can we help him?

(side note: I have phobia of bathroom which haven't gone away, can it can be that he got it as well but in other form?)

  • just out of curiousity... how is your son doing? Is he still having problems sleeping? – elbrant Dec 10 '18 at 0:08
  • @elbrant Good, we dimmed the light to very little so there are no cast shadows. I m skeptic of why he was scared that night. From my experience either someone made them terrified which comes out in some form or they want attention. – Nofel Dec 10 '18 at 14:22
  • Glad to hear that things are better. He could of just been startled by things he normally sleeps through. Best wishes. – elbrant Dec 10 '18 at 14:38
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For the most part, your toddler is simply at that stage of development where the imagination truly grows. Nightmares generally start between the ages of 3 and 6 years, for example.

Three year olds also aren't quite at the stage where they really differentiate reality and fantasy; that starts around 4 typically. (All of these ages are "about", and it varies significantly based on the child).

This all comes together to mean that your toddler is scared because he's encountering something new and doesn't yet have the tools to handle it. What you can do to help him is to give him those tools. Talk through the situation with him. Show him that the owl isn't real. Talk about owls and learn about them, so he doesn't fear them. Let him learn how to make shadow puppets - etc. All of these things have one thing in common: taking something unfamiliar and unknown and making it familiar and known.

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The easiest solution would be to purchase heavier (i.e.; light blocking) drapes for his bedroom windows - and maybe a nightlight. Turn closing the drapes part of his night time routine. Close the drapes, take a bath, put your jammies on, etc. You can always enter his room when you wake and open the drapes to let in the morning light. But, while he should be asleep, keep the drapes drawn. No more shadows. No more floodlights.

In light of the comment exchange (below), let me offer another idea: Shadow Games
Shadow games provide a way to turn something scary into something fun. Essentially you use your hands and a nearby light source to throw shadows up on the wall. Here is a website that explains Hand Shadow Puppets better than I can with words.

My son had a similar issue when he wasn't much older than yours. I tried to explain the concept of shadows and we played a bit with the hand puppet idea over the next couple of nights. It made a huge difference for us!

Please don't be concerned that you passed a phobia down to your son. I feel confident that he is frightened simply because he doesn't understand what a shadow is and where it comes from.

  • He sleeps with us, on his bed. What I did was turn on very dim light that doesn't cast any shadow. For now he was sleeping peacefully. Though he wanted every light in house to be turned on yesterday evening. – Nofel Nov 27 '18 at 10:40
  • a tad confused... is he only able to sleep if everyone's in the same bed? Or, is his bed in your bedroom? – elbrant Nov 27 '18 at 23:48
  • We got our bed and his bed is next to us like a cot next to bed. He does cry when his mom goes to loo or moves onto my side. – Nofel Nov 27 '18 at 23:54
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This is normal and usual. The best course of action is to give the toddler the tools they need to handle "the owl".

A flashlight, some owl repellant, and funny sound to make will do wonders.

For flashlight's there cheap and easy, owl repellant is just water with lavender mixed in, and a funny sound like "woo la blooolp" outta cover it.

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