10/11/2011 13:35 GMT | Updated 09/01/2012 05:12 GMT

Using Storytelling to Conquer Children's Fears

Both of my children have been upset by irrational fears this evening. For my three-year-old it began on Bonfire night. We didn't attend a fireworks display but the Primary School near to our house organised a display which you could see and hear from our house. My three-year-old was petrified clinging to her dad and burying her face in his chest until she finally fell asleep.

She has always been a little afraid of the dark and likes to take a torch to bed for comfort. Since the fireworks however, she refuses to get out of the car in the dark unless you carry her. As soon as it gets dark she clings to me for dear life and is freaked out by the smallest noise. After spending an evening cooking dinner with my one-year-old crying and clinging to one leg and my three-year-old clinging to the other, I decided something had to be done. It is dark before 5pm at the moment so I am spending hours each day with a clingy child who won't let me do anything.

I decided to talk to her about her fears.

What are you afraid of?

The Dark.

What is scary about the dark?

It's dark.

So we weren't really getting anywhere, time to change focus.

It isn't dark in the house though

But it's dark out there

So what can I do to stop the dark out there being scary? How about I close all the curtains so that you can't see the dark. Would that help?


We went around the house closing curtains and blinds in every room. We then went to her bedroom and read 'Can't you Sleep Little Bear'.

Mummy can I get a lantern, a little one, a big one and a really big one?

I'll see what I can do

This seems to have helped for tonight and hopefully if we keep talking and finding solutions we will conquer her fear.

An hour later was my 7-year-olds' bedtime.

I don't want to go to bed. My friend told me a scary story about a haunted house and I might have bad dreams.

This is coming from a child who is currently reading Harry Potter number five with far more scary things in it than a haunted house. Great, thanks friend, thought I, now I have 2 children with irrational fears. The usual explanation that it was just a story and wasn't real didn't cut much weight. I decided to take a new direction.

How about I tell you a nice story and you think about that when you go to bed.

So I concocted a story about a girl who found a Special Protective Elf (SPE). I described the Elf in great detail and she helped me to fill in some of the finer details and choose its name. When the girl called the elf he would come and use his magic to make something she was afraid of less scary. After the story I suggested that we could write more stories about the elf and how he had helped with other things the girls was afraid of. I encouraged her to think of one of her own and draw a picture of what the SPP looked like


I wish I had a special protective elf..........but I've got Hamlet

Hamlet is my daughter's toy pig that goes to bed with her each night.

Yes an SPP

Imagine that if you are afraid of something the special protective pig emerges to scare it off.

She thought the idea of a mean fighting pig was very funny.

If you start to have a bad dream when something scary happens use your imagination to send in your SPP to save the day.

She went to bed with a smile on her face and I'm glad that I didn't try to brush the children's fears under the carpet or get annoyed with them for being silly. Children's fears are real to them and by recognising this I had some lovely quality time with both my girls. Priceless.