I was totally unprepared for that reaction and for the fallout. It took several months to convince her to try camping again and to come to terms with owls and their “hoots.” To help parents avoid this mishap, I developed the following tips for helping children overcome fears of the night while camping. Following these tips will go a long way in preparing your child for the first “hoot.”
- Discuss what they will hear (crickets, frogs, owls, coyotes, etc.), see (moths, raccoons, skunks, opossums, bats, etc.) or feel at night (insects, spider webs, etc.).
- Explain why creatures are out and about at night (nocturnal vs. diurnal, finding food, mating, etc.)
- Explain why they make sounds at night (calling to one another, guarding territory, etc.)
- Read books about night creatures. Borrow books from the local library about camping in general, nocturnal creatures, or any animal in which they show a special interest.
- While camping, focus less on the “dark” and more on how beautiful night time can be. Observe the stars and the moon. Talk about the “music” of the night.
- Do not expect children to sleep outside all night. Take small steps by allowing them to sleep inside in their own beds when bedtime arrives. Another option is to allow them to fall asleep in the tent and then transfer them to their beds.
- Practice for night time camping outside by camping inside first. Set up tents in the family room complete with sleeping bags, pillows, books, and flashlights and encourage them to sleep there for the night.
- Hearing night time sounds can be fun if you make it a game. Ask children to identify what sounds they hear.
- Allow children to fall asleep with their flashlights.