Kids got fears? Never fear!

Lights out! It’s one of your favorite times of the day. The peace, the quiet…and then you hear the tiny voice chirping, “I’m scared!” It’s nothing new—over the years you’ve checked for monsters under the bed, dinosaurs in the closet, aliens outside the window and a giant ostrich that supposedly visits your child’s room at night. Even your best detective skills have never turned up anything more than a couple dust bunnies or a missing sock. But that doesn’t convince little Kingsley.

Fears aren’t limited to nighttime, though—many kids are afraid of everything from swimming pools (what if there’s a shark?!?) to thunderstorms (what if the lightening gets me?!?) to spiders (can you blame him?). Some fears may be more legitimate than others, but all are very real to your child, whether they’re two or twelve.

If there’s a fierce imaginary dragon (or giant, or cartoon villain) plaguing your house, don’t worry—there’s no reason your kids have to grow up afraid of the dark, or anything else. The strategies below will have your child braving even the bogeyman with ease.

3 Tips to Help Kids Brave Their Fears

1. Validate the feelings, but not the creepies. Childhood fears are very normal, and it’s important to be respectful of your child’s feelings. Going overboard, though, by checking in every drawer for monsters or calling the swimming pool to ask if any sharks have been sighted, will only backfire by spinning the qualm out of proportion. Avoid playing into the anxiety by briefly empathizing, then telling her you have confidence she can overcome it. Then, help her do so with the next tip.

2. Conquer the fear. Whether your child has had a frightful experience with a neighbor’s dog or can’t stomach escalators, he can conquer it with a little guidance from you. First, in a calm moment, ask him for his ideas. Say, “I’ve noticed that dogs make you nervous—can you think of some things that would help you get used to them?” Maybe he’s okay with dogs in kennels or on leashes, or maybe little dogs aren’t as scary. Start with your child’s suggestions, and gradually work your way up until he’s confronting his fear—and getting over it. Recognize that especially if he’s had a bad experience in the past, this could take some time, but his newfound confidence will pay off.

3. Say “boo” to ghost stories. While you or your older kids might enjoy spooky stories and shows, they might be keeping your four-year-old up at night. And while children may think they can handle creepy characters, sometimes their vivid imaginations get the better of them when the lights are off. Know what your kids are reading and watching—even cartoons can have scary parts that are best avoided until the children are older and better able to differentiate fact from fiction. Set appropriate limits, and when you feel like your child can handle a bit more, take it slowly and talk about what’s real and what’s not.

Fears are normal, but your kids don’t have to live with them. Help them get past their fright, and you’ll all sleep better!

About the Author

Amy McCready
Nationally recognized parenting expert Amy McCready is the Founder of Positive Parenting Solutions and the best selling author of The “Me, Me, Me” Epidemic - A Step-by-Step Guide to Raising Capable, Grateful Kids in an Over-Entitled World and If I Have to Tell You One More Time…The Revolutionary Program That Gets Your Kids to Listen Without Nagging, Reminding or Yelling. As a “recovering yeller” and a Certified Positive Discipline Instructor, Amy is a champion of positive parenting techniques for happier families and well-behaved kids. Amy is a TODAY Show contributor and has been featured on CBS This Morning, CNN, Fox & Friends, MSNBC, Rachael Ray, Steve Harvey & others. In her most important role, she is the proud mom of two amazing young men.