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Advice from those in the know on every­thing from but­ter cof­fee to bud­get­ing for school fees.

MY SON IS SCARED OF MON­STERS UN­DER BED

Q My son be­comes up­set at bed­times – he’s con­vinced there are mon­sters un­der his bed. I’m un­able to con­vince him there is noth­ing there.

AMon­sters un­der the bed, in the cup­board, be­hind the blinds can be scary for kids and a worry for par­ents try­ing to es­tab­lish bed­time rou­tines.

A child’s mind is brim­ming with won­der, full of sparks and wild imag­in­ings. So, there’s lit­tle sur­prise that when an idea of some­thing scary takes root in their mind it’s of­ten cre­atively moulded into a mon­ster un­der the bed or as some other sce­nario play­ing out in their head.

So how best to tackle this? First, never sup­press his nat­u­ral cre­ativ­ity or dis­miss him out­right. Har­ness this to pro­vide a so­lu­tion. For ex­am­ple, if he’s sure that mon­sters un­der the bed are real, then he’ll love a fun pre-bed­time game of set­ting up his favourite stuffed an­i­mal to keep guard over him at night, promi­nently po­si­tioned to de­feat any mon­sters. Par­ents can play other games to make bed­times fun again. Be as cre­ative as pos­si­ble, but keep it light-hearted and up­beat; for in­stance, sug­gest all mon­sters are afraid of tooth­paste for some ex­tra parental ben­e­fit.

Get down to his level. Phys­i­cally see­ing the world from his per­spec­tive may throw light on what he’s see­ing in the shad­ows at night.

An in­nocu­ous piece of fur­ni­ture, or­na­ments or books could look com­pletely dif­fer­ent from a child’s view­point. It’s also worth check­ing what is ac­tu­ally un­der the bed (or wardrobe, toy box...) and re­move any of­fend­ing ar­ti­cles. A soft glow night light next to his bed can be re­as­sur­ing. Al­though bed­time fears and anx­i­ety is not un­com­mon, there could be other is­sues at play that’s worth in­ves­ti­gat­ing – maybe an is­sue at school or within his peer group or with a sib­ling that’s mak­ing him ner­vous. This might be man­i­fest­ing it­self as a ‘mon­ster’ to him. It may have been some­thing on TV or the in­ter­net that has up­set him, it doesn’t have to be scary con­tent as such to set an ac­tive mind into over­drive.

My core par­ent­ing tip sel­dom used by many par­ents: sim­ply to talk to them, not in baby speak, not in au­thor­i­ta­tive over­tones, just chat to es­tab­lish how they feel. You’ll be amazed at what you can learn.

Fi­nally, (and this ap­plies to adults) tell him it’s OK to be scared some­times, ex­plain that in life you need to be a lit­tle bit scared from time to time – this is the only way to be able to be brave.

RUS­SELL HEMMINGS is a life coach, and clin­i­cal and cog­ni­tive be­havioural hyp­nother­a­pist

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