Doctor Betti
Dr. Betti Hertzberg Ressler is a Board Certified Pediatrician on staff at Miami Children's Hospital. Dr. Hertzberg developed the toilet training video "Let's Go Potty." She is the co-author of "The Doctor's Book of Home Remedies for Children."

Afraid of the Dark

Question: My 12 year old daughter experiences difficulty sleeping due to fear of the dark and being alone. Is this normal for someone at this age or can it be an indication of some more serious psychological problem?

Answer: Monsters under the bed, strange animals in the closet and fear of the dark may at one time or another be a normal stage that younger children experience.

It's important to know that these fears are normal. How we as parents react to them will determine whether or not these fears go away or continue on. There are different fears at different developmental stages.

The older child that has fears such as what you are describing with your daughter could be from any number of factors. Television is a major factor contributing to strong sometimes overwhelming emotional messages that children at this age assimilate. Nighttime fears are especially symbolic of things going on in their lives.

Family life and realistic concerns such as a new school need to be taken into consideration. If you still can't pinpoint the possible culprit, it may be a good idea to get some professional help.

Also see:

  • Strategies for overcoming fears of darkness
  • What is the cause of ITP and is there anything that can prevent it from recurring?
  • Can a pediatrician comfortably prescribe and manage ADHD medication or is it better suited to a psychiatrist?
  • Ask Dr. Betti your questions

    This information is not intended to be a substitute for visiting your pediatrician. If you or your child has specific concerns, you should see your doctor for a diagnosis and treatment.