Coping With Teraphobia, The Fear of Monsters
Teraphobia (fear of monsters) is extremely common in pre-school-age children. It generally lessens during the early elementary years and is highly uncommon by the time a child reaches middle school. In teens and adults, the fear of monsters is a rare but potentially life-limiting phobia. Jul 17, 2018
Fears are a normal, healthy part of childhood development. They help children learn to make sense of the world around them and develop coping skills to last a lifetime. For this reason, phobias are generally not diagnosed in kids under the age of 18 unless they last for more than six months.
In children, the fear of monsters often takes a nonspecific form. Rather than fearing Frankenstein, Dracula or Godzilla, the child is afraid that "a monster" lives under his bed or in her closet. Nonetheless, asking the child to draw a picture of the monster may provide clues to an environmental trigger. Some drawings resemble a TV cartoon character, a kidnapper who appeared on the evening news or even a neighbor whom the kids in the neighborhood refer to as "creepy." In these cases, limiting the child's exposure may help lessen the fear.
Treatment in Children
- Some parents use "monster spray" to help their kids battle this fear. Consider using a spray bottle — empty, partially filled with colored water or an aromatherapy spray — in a nightly ritual. Spray the closet, under the bed and anywhere else that your child thinks the monster might be hiding. Be sure not to use anything that might be harmful to the child or damaging to fabrics or paint.
- Encourage soothing bedtime routines to calm the child's nerves. A warm bath, a glass of water, and a bedtime story promote relaxation and a soothing sleeping environment. If the child is afraid of the dark, consider providing a nightlight. Sleeping with the family pet might also provide a feeling of protection.
- Reward "brave" behavior. Some kids thrive on the attention their fears draw, so refocus your attention. Provide a brief "monster check" (and spray ritual, if desired) and then leave the room. Use stickers or other markers to track the nights that the child stays in bed all night without calling you into her room. When a week's worth of stickers have been collected, allow the child to trade them in for a favorite treat, such as a trip to the park or a batch of cookies.
- Never laugh at the child's fear, use the fear as a threat to deter bad behavior or belittle him for having the fear. Show respect and sensitivity for her feelings while reassuring her that everything will be fine.