Nighttime Fears and How to Deal With Them

At age 2, your child will likely start to develop new fears at bedtime. What can you do to ease your toddler's anxieties?

This is an age when many children begin to develop new fears -- of monsters, the dark, animals, objects -- while still nursing an intense fear of separation from Mom and Dad. Not surprisingly, bedtime is when fears and anxieties often surface most. No matter how silly they may seem, you should never belittle your child's fears; they're very real to her. Try to be sympathetic and reassuring, and, if you have to, make special accommodations, such as keeping a nightlight on to calm your child down so she can fall sleep.With all these fears brewing, it's only natural that a 2-year-old will have an occasional nightmare. If a scary dream awakens your child, give him a soothing hug and encourage him to talk about the dream the next day. Even classic kid movies contain images that may frighten some youngsters. Monitor closely what television shows and videos your child is watching, especially as the hour gets closer to his bedtime.

Another sleep issue that may surface this year is whether your child is ready to give up her afternoon nap. Just as they resist nighttime sleep, many kids between the ages of 2 and 3 decide that playing is infinitely more fun than taking an afternoon siesta.

How Much Sleep Is Enough?

Children's sleep needs may differ, but most toddlers still require around 10 to 14 hours of sleep each day. The best barometer of whether your child is getting enough sleep without taking a nap: the way she behaves. If she starts acting a little like Ivan the Terrible late in the day, or if she falls sound asleep at 5 p.m. while watching television, chances are good that she could still benefit from a midafternoon nap-or an earlier bedtime.

Try to stick to the same sleep schedule each day, as much as this is possible. Widely varying naptimes and bedtimes aren't good for your child's psyche -- and will likely undermine your efforts to make bedtime a calm, happy experience for your child and the rest of the family.

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