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! 

1 comment:

  1. I am very excited to try these suggestions tomorrow night (especially the red bulb). Tonight though he and daddy are having a sleep over campout in the living room so he is going to have at least one great night sleep before we try this!