Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Scared at Night

My son (2 1/2 year old) says he is scared when we put him in his room at night. I have asked what he is scared of and has different reasons. Sometimes it is monsters sometimes witches but they all focus around the window in his room. I have taken him to the window and shown him what is outside of it. How it is just our backyard and neighbors back yard. 

We have added extra night lights and he won't sleep without his lamp on. He does have a bedtime routine that he has been doing for over a year and that has not changed since having another child.  I am still able to do the routine like I always have while my husband watches our daughter. It all kind of started 2-3 months before our daughter was born, she is now 2 months old. He ends up coming in with us between midnight-4 am because he is scared. How do we help him and how much longer might this last?

All kinds of things happen when a new sibling joins a family.  Insecurity is one of them. Everybody has to figure out where they fit in the family again. It may take many forms, but being scared at night is not unusual. He probably doesn't have the vocabulary to tell you why he is afraid. Good for you for asking a what question instead. Our three-year-old experienced this same window focus for her insecurity when her dad was away from home for an extended period of time.

First he needs to know that Mama and Daddy won't let any monsters or witches into the house. I found a key that we put on a string to hang on our daughter's bedpost. Part of our goodnight ritual was to go all through the house, search each room, and lock all the windows so nothing could come inside. The key helped place her in charge of taming her monsters.

Fear of the dark, monsters under the bed, creatures in the closet, scary dreams all come in and out of our children's lives. You have done well to add extra night lights. Surprisingly enough, red light bulbs do not wake us as completely as white ones, so you might want to try that, especially in his lamp.  He might go back to sleep, assuming he was sleeping through the night before this anxiety cropped up.

We want our children to always turn to us when they are afraid or need some extra security. But, unless you want a family bed, you want to return him to his room. You can let him come in and cuddle for a while, until he falls back asleep or at least is feeling more calm. If he stays awake for more than 10 or 15 minutes, you might repeat the last parts of your good night ritual (not book reading - skip that one here) of locking windows, rocking, saying prayers, singing a song, and tucking him back in his own bed.

If he needs a transition back to his bed for a while you might even make a pallet on the floor of your room where he can come and sleep instead of joining you in your bed. 

You are doing a great job of acknowledging his feelings and supporting his needs. It isn't always easy to help children learn to self-calm: for instance, we swaddle newborns - they certainly can't do that by themselves!  I would think that another few weeks should find him sleeping through the night again in his own bed.

Monsters have to be tamed again at about 4 1/2 to 5 years of age. That's when all those nursery tales such as The Three Bears, The Three Little Pigs, and Bible stories like David and Goliath and Daniel in the Lions Den will help him see that he, too, can conquer things that scare him.

Remember that emotional intelligence is the only area of human development that is not linear. It seems to come and go. Even as adults we go through times where we are afraid, and the fear is not rational.

1. Acknowledge his feelings 2. Help him find rituals that will help him self-calm 3. Repeat bedtime routine 4. Transition a little at a time.

You are great parents, and this, too, shall pass! 

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Send your questions to jorja.davis@gmail.com. I will answer questions on Tuesday each week. If you need a quicker response than a weekly blog post, just let me know! .... should I be concerned and call my pediatrician if my now 7 month old absolutely WILL NOT sleep for more than 13 hours in a 24 hour time period??? She isn't cranky or fussy she just refuses to sleep. I will even put her in the crib and leave her there for a full hour and all she does the entire time is coo, talk and roll over. I have also tried wind down time 20 minutes before I want her to sleep where we read a book and rock in the rocking chair and that hasn't worked. So, I know, according to the internet, she should be averaging 14-16 hours .... but if she is only getting 12 is that bad???? (FYI I am sure this is probably only a first time mom question). Thanks! First I praise your concern. That is a good sign that you are doing a good job as a mother. Think about the way the internet phrased their information. Do you see the word “averaging?” That could mean some children sleep as much as say 10-12 hours and others as much as 16-18. Do you remember when your teacher averaged your grades in school? You didn’t have to make 90 on every test to end up with a 90 average. I must say that I have seldom met anyone or anything where average is a good descriptor. You are certainly not “average!” I know that for a fact. Look at the other sleep patterns in her family. Do you regularly require 6 or 10 hours of sleep to function at your best? Probably the most important thing you can do for your 7 month old is to keep her on a fairly consistent schedule. If she is sleeping through the night, you are already ahead of the “average” family. That hour of “coo, talk and roll-over” are important for lots of reasons: processing information, practicing skills she has learned, and trying out new ones. That is an important hour for you as well. The “20 minutes … where we read a book and rock in the rocking chair” is also important for both of you. It is the best wind down for both of you and it is important for learning to read (eventually for her, not for you – I know you do that well). Once she is down, listen for a change – she might fall asleep, she might get restless and begin to cry. Remember that any child who is crying should be responded to, even if it is just to let her know that you are there, console her, acknowledge her emotion (change her diaper, feed her, rock her) – you know what she is asking for then put her back down if you need to, or move her to a blanket on the floor where you are resting or working. You are doing a GREAT JOB! And so is she!