Behind the door? In the wardrobe? Under the bed? Many young children fear hidden monsters are coming to get them, and parents often struggle to convince them there is no such thing as the bogeyman. A study published in the journal Child Development offers some tips for showing kids that it’s safe to go to bed.
Researchers read illustrated stories to 50 children aged four, five, and seven. Each story was about a child coming across something frightning, either real or imaginary. For example, the child in the story could be confronted with a bear, or a ghost.
After the reading, the researchers then asked the participating children to predict how afraid the fictional children would be, to explain why they felt afraid, and to suggest a way to help.
When the creatures in the stories were real, the researchers found children wanted to actively do something. Boys mostly suggested fighting, while girls thought they should avoid the creature.
For imaginary monster, the responses were different. Younger children suggested pretending the monsters were friendly, while older kids showed the ability to remember the reality of the situation – i.e., ghost aren’t real.
These results suggest that parents should take a different approach to easing their child’s fears, depending on their age. After all, there’s nothing really lurking under the bed…