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Monster Madness

Scene from a shadow puppet play featuring scary flying creatures.

For the first couple years of their lives, children are pretty fearless. But suddenly around three years of age, they become afraid of the dark and develop irrational fears of monsters and ghosts.

Imagined Threat

If you're a parent, your child has probably informed you of the monsters living under her bed or the dinosaurs in her closet. These invisible threats have an equally invisible source: the imagination, which really starts to gain steam in the third year of development.

A budding imagination opens all sorts of wonderful worlds to a child. But combined with immature reasoning skills, it can also exacerbate her fears. Suddenly, a shadow on the wall becomes a hungry monster.


What can a parent do? Since fear is a natural response to something unknown or threatening, try making the source of fear less frightening. If your three-year-old refuses to sleep in her own bed because of the local monster population, take her seriously and fight fear with facts. Look under the bed with a flashlight, showing her that there are no monsters.

The more familiar your child is with the things that scare her, the less frightening they'll become. Your child will sleep better at night, and as a result you will too!

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