Nighttime fears usually appear when children start to develop a more active imagination. Suddenly they have the ability to not only make up stories but also imagine that things are worse than they really are. Adults do exactly the same thing, but we lie awake fretting about losing our jobs or forgetting something important while children tend to imagine scary monsters or baddies.
The way to calm the fears and banish those monsters is to help your child to learn how to use their imagination to their advantage.
Stories and Pictures
During the day you can choose a quiet moment to sit down and suggest that your child draws the monsters under the bed, or the big bad wolf from a nightmare. While you draw chat about the monster, what he does, why he hides under the bed, even what his name is. You then have a few options:
1) Tear up the drawing, or if you have a fireplace you could burn it. This way of destroying monsters can really appeal to children who need to see things in practical terms. It gives them power over the monster, showing them that they have nothing to fear.
2) Draw a picture of the same monster asleep in bed. Display the first picture during the day but at bedtime replace it with the sleeping picture. Tell your child that Scary Stan has had a busy day playing tricks on people but now he is tired and is going to sleep until morning.
3) Make up a new ending to the story. Perhaps the monster is under the bed looking for a lost toy, or wants to make friends and play. There are lots of lovely books you can read to help with this one.
You can ask your child to help decorate a spray bottle and fill it with "monster spray" (which is really just water of course). At bedtime you will spray a light mist into the corners of the room or under the bed to keep monsters away. Glitter can be used in the same way, as fairy dust, if you don't mind the clearing up. Either way it's usually best if an adult takes the spray bottle or box of fairy dust out of the child's bedroom, or you might find it has been liberally applied overnight!
You could give your child some kind of talisman to use against monsters or baddies in the night. This could be a physical object like a magic crystal or sonic screwdriver which they can use to protect themselves, or perhaps a toy knight or robot who will defend them. It could even be as simple as a magic word or phrase to scare baddies away. If you use an object do make sure it's safe for your little one to sleep with, there is a very good chance that they will fall asleep holding it.
This is one of my favourites. It's really simple and I've used it a few times to great effect. Once your little one is in bed rub a small amount of scented hand cream onto their hand. You could use a scent they associate with you, as that is something they already find comforting. Or you might like to choose a new scent, perhaps one with lavender, camomile or Jasmine. Whatever you use, tell your child that it's a magic potion to keep the monsters away and give them sweet dreams. All they have to do is smell the potion until they fall asleep and nothing scary will happen. I have known this to truly work like magic!