Dear Doctor Wallace:
I’m 16 years old, and my little brother is just 7. He’s a nice boy, and I only see him when I visit my dad. My little brother has his own room, and when I visit, I share a room with him at night since there are two beds in the room. This is fine. I don’t have a problem with it, especially since he is a respectful little kid who is no trouble at all during the day. But I do notice that my little brother has a night light and keeps the door open. When I asked him about this, he said he’s fine. But I’ve noticed that, some nights, he cries and whimpers during the night. It actually sounds like he’s having nightmares. When this happens, I wake him up and try and ask him if he had a bad dream, but he always says he didn’t. Now I don’t know what to do. I sure would like to help him if possible
— Concerned Older Sister, via email
Concerned Older Sister: There can be many reasons why your little brother feels anxious about the dark. It’s easy for a child’s imagination to run wild sometimes.
You should get your father involved to teach your little brother how to self-soothe and feel secure in his bed at night.
Oftentimes, a regular routine can be a big part of alleviating stress or worry that a young child might become susceptible to.
With a suitable routine in place, this fear should eventually go away, usually after a period of a few weeks to a month or two.