Monster Spray: A Child Therapist’s Perspective

Written By

Paige Shiels
December 20, 2023

This article has been reviewed by Nurtured First’s team of child development experts.

“Mommy, Mommy!!! There’s a monster in the closet!”

What do you do when your child is afraid of monsters? 

When you search “child afraid of monsters” on Google or Pinterest, one of the most common solutions that pops up is to use “monster spray.” You’ll find recipes for “monster spray,” “monster repellant,” or DIY “monster be gone” concoctions. 

You’ll be instructed to mix some water, food coloring, and glitter into a spray bottle and put a Monster Spray label on the front. The next step is to spray your child’s bedroom with this magic elixir to ward off any monsters that lurk beneath the bed, in the closet, or behind the curtains so your child can rest easily. 

Is this an effective approach to handling your child’s bedtime fears? Read on for my perspective and recommended approach. 

A Child Therapist’s Perspective on Monster Spray for Kids

As a therapist who has worked with many children who struggle with nighttime fears, I’ve had many frustrated parents come to me after using Monster Spray for weeks to no avail. They followed the recipe and did all the “right” steps, but their child was still afraid of monsters. 

Why isn’t Monster Spray working?

When our children come to us afraid, they need to know they are safe and can rest in our love. Monster repellants and other quick-fix solutions communicate that safety comes from a spray rather than a relationship with us.

Monster Spray can also feed into their fears. Using the spray leaves our children with the impression that monsters could be real and in their room, and we are just pushing them away with the spray. What we want to do instead is to help our children investigate their fears and understand the truth behind them – in this case, the truth is that monsters aren’t real, and there aren’t any in their room. 

A More Helpful Approach to Your Child’s Fear of Monsters 

You’re probably wondering: So, what approach is the most effective in helping children who are afraid of monsters? If a bottle of Monster Spray isn’t a long-term solution for bedtime fears, then what can we do instead to support our little ones? 

The most helpful approach to a fear of monsters is rooted in child development. From a developmental perspective, it’s completely normal and appropriate for little children to have fears of monsters. When we approach their fears from a place of understanding rather than judgment (or our own fear), it can have a positive and long-lasting influence.

Children need an approach to a fear of monsters that is overflowing with connection between you and them. They need to know that you see their fear and understand how real it feels for them. They also need to know that they are always in your care (even when they’re in bed, apart from you). Kids can only truly rest when they feel safe and secure – and you are the safest, most secure place for them. Your love for them is the greatest protection from monsters. 

Our children don’t need a special spray to feel safe – they need you!

Let’s look at four practical ways we can approach a fear of monsters with this perspective in mind.

4 Tips to Support Your Child Through Their Fear

Tip 1: Fully Accept Their Fear

Let your child know that you are fully okay with their fear, that you aren’t afraid of their fear, and that you want to hear more about their fear. This support reassures them that fear itself is nothing to be scared of. 

If we are continually telling our children, “Don’t be scared,” “It’s so silly that you’re scared of monsters,” “Man up,” and so on, we are teaching them that it’s not okay to be scared and that if they come to us when they are afraid, we’re not going to support or understand them.

Fully accepting their fears sounds like: 

  • “It’s okay to be scared.” 
  • “You are really scared. I hear you.”
  • “It sounds like you are really worried about monsters under your bed. Let’s talk about it.” 

When we accept their fears, it signals to our children that we truly see them.

Use our FREE checklist to help identify why your child struggles with sleep!

Tip 2: Explore the Fear 

Next, we want to get curious and explore this fear. 

It’s hard to help our children with their anxiety if we don’t know where the fear comes from. While some children may be able to explain why they are afraid of the monsters in their room, many children will have a hard time talking about their fear, or they won’t have the vocabulary or the language skills necessary to explain how they feel. 

You could explore their fear with them through drawing, playing out the fear with toys, role-playing, or even having them talk about their fear with a puppet or stuffy instead of you. The most important thing to do is stay curious and help your child understand where the fear is coming from. 

Our Worry Toolkit is an incredible resource for exploring your child’s fears! Check out the Toolkit here. 

Tip 3: Calm and Confident Reassurance

After getting curious and exploring the fear, we want to provide our children with calm and confident reassurance that they are safe. 

“There are no monsters underneath your bed, I promise.”

It can also be helpful to tell our children a story of sameness—a story about a time when we were scared and what helped us overcome that fear. 

“When I was your age, I’d get scared too. At night, it would help me to say, “I am safe. I am in my bed, and my mom and dad are right down the hall in their bed”. 

“I remember when I was scared of monsters in my room. It helped when Grandma and I drew pictures of my fear together. Do you want to draw out the monsters?”

Tip 4: Consider Possible Solutions

Finally, we want to collaborate with our children and provide them with tools to help reduce their fear so they can rest.

There are so many different tools that you can use. Helping a child with their fear of monsters can look like:

  • Staying for cuddles.
  • Making up silly names for the shadows.
  • Leaving kisses for later with their stuffies. 
  • Keeping the door open so they can hear you.
  • Turning on a night light or a hall light so the room’s not too dark. 
  • Writing out calming mantras before bed and hanging them on the wall. 
  • Practicing deep breathing together. 

All of these solutions have one thing in common – they involve connection with a caregiver! 

Our children need us to take the lead. When we connect with them and take time to offer solutions to their problems, it tells them that they are cared for and safe. This makes it easier for them to rest.

Final Thoughts

When you’re struggling at bedtime, remember that the most important approach to helping children who are afraid of monsters or other bedtime fears can’t be found in a spray bottle. 

Your presence, connection, and relationship are the greatest “monster spray” there is. 

If you need more support for bedtime struggles and nighttime fears, we can help! Packed with easy-to-digest lessons and practical bedtime tools, our Solving Bedtime Battles course dives deep into parental preference, early morning wakings, night wakings, room sharing, nighttime fears, separation struggles, and soooo much more. 

Grab the course today!

Key Takeaways

  1. “Monster spray” isn’t the most effective approach for children’s fear of monsters, because it implies that monsters are real and the spray is merely keeping them at bay.
  2. An ideal approach to tackling children’s fears is rooted in connection with their caregiver. 
  3. Support a child through their fear by fully accepting it, assuring them it’s okay to be scared, and encouraging them to talk about it.
  4. Exploring the fear with children through various creative methods can help them understand and articulate their anxiety better.
  5. Providing calm and confident reassurance of safety can alleviate children’s fears of monsters.
  6. Sharing personal stories of overcoming fear can be useful in reassuring children.
  7. Collaborating with children on possible solutions, such as keeping a night light on or practicing calming activities, can reduce their bedtime fears.
  8. The key to making children feel safe isn’t a special spray or tool, but our loving and understanding presence, connection,b and relationship.

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    Article By

    Paige Shiels
    Paige is an Early Childhood Educator with a passion for supporting children and families. As a Registered Early Childhood Educator with a Bachelor’s degree in Youth and Children’s Studies, Paige has been working with children and families for over 10 years. She has experience in children’s programming, child care centres, and supporting families at early learning centres. At Nurtured First, Paige has been a part of creating resources for parents and supporting families through our online groups and discussions. She loves having the opportunity to help families create deep, meaningful and nurturing relationships with their children. Outside of her professional life, Paige loves spending time with friends and family and travelling to new places.