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.

Monsters 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.