A little while ago I wrote about how my children are afraid of the dark and don’t seem to have grown out of this just yet. We were lucky enough to review some children’s lamps from White Rabbit England, a gorgeous children’s lifestyle interiors company, that have really helped them cope with this. My eldest daughter, Miss E who is nearly 8 has fallen head over heels with her Rabbit Lamp, and the youngest, Miss R, currently has 2 lamps by her bedside, including the Bunny Cottage lamp.
I’ve been thinking recently about the impact of them being upset and scared by the dark, and how we react to their fears at night can potentially affect them in the longer term. I have a psychology background and so probably tend to analyse, or even over-analyse many things and I’m always interested in reading about how different parenting styles have a supposed effect on our children.
I’m a fan of Dr. Tanya Byron, a clinical psychologist and child therapist and read her column in The Times regularly. Recently she gave advice to a family whose little girl was not sleeping through the night as she was afraid of the dark. Now, I like to think I’m a relatively consistent parent and can usually predict a response from a professional to a problem such as this, but I have to admit to being very surprised at Dr. Tanya’s reply. The parents had tried all kinds of tactics to help the child feel secure such as allowing her to sleep in their bed, having a nightlight, chastising her for waking and so on. It seemed to me that they had pretty much tried everything they could. Dr Tanya however, was quite stern about the way they had approached this and berated them for not having a consistent approach. They needed to be strict, not allowing her to get out of bed, and to follow through every time. This was to be the only approach and reaction to the situation. A child (in this case an 8 year old I think) who didn’t learn that she should feel safe at night could feel insecure in other aspects of her life.
It’s an interesting thought. Children need to feel secure at night, to know that we are still there for them during those long dark hours. This kind of profound security enables them in other areas of their life to be secure in the knowledge that we will be there for them. If they can’t separate themselves from us at night, at the right age of course, then they could feel incredibly insecure and unable to progress confidently and independently.
How can we be sure this is the end result though? If a child is upset and scared at night then our primal instinct is to provide comfort; let them into our bed if necessary, offer physical and emotional love. But doing this time and time again can be detrimental apparently. I’m not totally convinced I have to say. I suppose if it’s a prolongued situation I can see how it wouldn’t help the child, but what’s considered prolongued? I guess we’ll never be sure if by giving this kind of tough love we ensure a positive effect on our child’s security and confidence but it really has made me think again about some of my parenting techniques.
What do you think?
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