How do I make my 5 year olf unafraid at night

Gretchen - posted on 09/17/2012 ( 19 moms have responded )

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My son is 5 and I cannot get him to sleep at night or last a whole night. He hears noises, is afraid monsters are in his room, is afraid somone is going ot break into our house. We dont show him scary things and to my knowledge no one has ever spoken with him about break in's. I have asked him where being scared of someone coming in our house came from and he didnt have an answer. Everynight he seems to have a new fear and I cant get him to sleep unless I stay in the room till he drifts off then he is in my room 3-4 times a night because he is scared again. I can get him back to sleep in his bed most nights but I dont understand what is waking him up and I feel so bad for him that he is scared of every noise.

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Helen - posted on 10/11/2012

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my son is six and terrified of going to bed and sleeping alone, i have to sit with him till he falls asleep, he then wakes up and gets into our bed.He also has issues about being in any room in the house alone and even if i go to the loo he gets upset if i say he can't come with me.Whats upsetting me now is he seems to have developed a coughing and humming tic, which is worse at bedtime because he is more stressed. i asked him to draw what he was afraid of he did a picture of what he said was a monster.I am at my wits end with worry so any suggestions would be gratefully appreciated.

Laura - posted on 09/25/2012

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Geez Bobbie, kids have anxieties and fears at bedtime. Way to throw gas on the fire with talk of OCD etc. Gretchen-my 5 year old twin girls have many nights when they wake up scared and crawl into bed with me. We use monster spray at night (water with lavender oil in a spray bottle) sometimes, and sometimes not. They have fears at bedtime, I lay with them sometimes until they fall asleep. Remember that this will not last. They will not be crawling into bed with you when they are in 9th grade. Soothe and comfort them as only you know how as their mom. Shutting their door and letting them deal with it will only make them feel abandoned and alone. You are the protector and all powerful. Love, comfort, reassure, cuddle and snuggle. This too will pass.

Pamela - posted on 09/18/2012

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Night lights are great for this kind of fear. You can also play some soft meditation music on a CD player that then turns itself off...most do these days. If there are tree branches that touch the house near his room they can be cut back.



Be aware that he may be getting his fear from something watched on TV..., someone at school or even cartoons can portray things that frighten children.



Try really warm baths right before bedtime to loosen his muscles. You can also try some aroma therapy (available at health food stores) in the water of the bath. Massaging his feet as he drifts off to sleep with the music...or a back massage as he goes down. There are many things besides sitting next to him which enables his fear to continue.

Amy - posted on 09/17/2012

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I still lay with my 6 year old son at night because he has many of the same anxieties. Most nights he wakes in the middle of the and gets into bed with us. I stopped fighting it along time ago, my husband and I just go with it at this point. It saves us on sleep, I no longer have to get up and fight with him and we all get more sleep that way. Actually the more moms I talk to about it the more I find that it's very common for parents to cosleep with older children.



I will say we had the most success with getting him to stay in his room all night when my husband created a tent over his bed. He put screws in the ceiling and attached hangers with fishing wire, we used clothes pins to hold the sheet to the hangers and then attached it around the sides of his bed. I don't know why it worked but it definitely helped him sleep through the night.

Lauren - posted on 09/17/2012

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I had a hard time with my 6-year-old last year after watching the movie "Mars Needs Moms."--I swear they need a disclaimer on that movie!!!



Anyways, it took awhile, but I had to keep reassuring him nothing was going to happen to me. We had to work hard to make bedtime (and his room) a fun thing and space. After work, I tried to incorporate him into my activities--taking out the trash, making dinner, cleaning up, vacumning, etc. I would make sure he heard the noises that he heard at night and saw where shadows were so he knew they were just things from the house and not anything scary. Then we'd spend some quality time together taking his bath, reading books (in his bed sometimes...sometimes in mine), maybe watching a few minutes of a TV show. We also had "movie nights" a few evenings and turned the lights off so he'd get used to being the dark alone again.



My son kept crawling out of bed at night for awhile, but I just reassured him nothing would happen. For you son, it's a bit different. What you could try is spending some time in his room like we did doing fun things to get him to remember it's a happy, comfortable place. And then at night, as hard as it is to not be frustrated, maybe get him to laugh about something--best cure for being afraid. You could say, "well, I don't think monsters exist, but let's check to be sure." And then as you check, be silly about it--hop around, make up a silly song or rhyme. Whatever it takes to get him to smile or laugh. And then all you can do is reassure him everything will be fine.



You could also try to give him a comfort object--a blanket or teddy bear if he doesn't have one. Or even if he does, maybe you can get a new one and say he/she is there to make your son feel safe until he's ready to feel safe on his own.

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Julie - posted on 10/12/2012

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One thing I can tell you for sure, don't belittle his fears or tell him to "get over it". It doesn't work at all and just makes him unwilling to come to you with other things. Having fears of any sort is very normal, and although he does need to learn that there isn't a monster in the closet, it takes time to be able to face those fears sometimes. Just continue to love and support him, hear him out, and try to soothe him the best you can, as you have been doing.



There are a few things you can try that may help. One, like most have suggested, is getting a night light of some sort. All 3 of my kids sleep with a lava lamp on. They are fun to watch and create just enough light without being too bright. That may be something that works wonders for him.



Another thing is you can try facing the fears head on with him. For example, if he says there's a monster in the closet, then you tell him, "Well, then let's go get that monster!" I'm serious. Get a toy bat or something and go marching in his room like you mean it, and open that closet door and tell the monster he is not welcome and to leave your son alone. Encourage him to do it with you if he's not too afraid, but make sure he knows that you're serious about taking on that monster with/for him. If you show that you believe he is afraid and are willing to help him overcome it by facing it with him, maybe that will be enough since he'll know you are there to help fight the monsters off. It may not work instantly or at all, but it's worth the try.



Fears come in all shapes and sizes, and this sounds a little bit like a phobia, poor guy. Hopefully it won't last forever, but (for now) he has a very real fear. You don't have to like it and it's ok to be frustrated by it, but he does want you to believe him when he tells you he's afraid (and it sounds like you do) and not to just tell him "there's nothing there". To him, it's there. It's as real as you or I. The only way to conquer those types of fears is by learning to face them with someone you trust at a slow pace...sometimes agonizingly slow. I wish I had an instant cure for you, but there is none in this case.



You are in my thoughts. I hope tonight is better than the last. Take care!

Jennifer - posted on 10/07/2012

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I'm not a mom (16), but When I started having trouble, my mom go me this really pretty sheep nightlight and my grandma let me pick out a toy to sleep with every night.. When ever I got scared, I'd hug the toy and look at the sheep. My brother had a spinning star nightlight. It would stop spinning and he'd spin it again till he got tired. I think a nightlight is a great way to help. I still can't sleep without some light. Also, my mom used to tell me that all the monsters were afraid of moms and wouldn't dare try to get me when she was there.

Shawn - posted on 09/29/2012

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Bobbie while I agree with you to a point that a child needs to learn to self soothe, there are other ways to empower the child and change their negative connotations and thoughts. This is a child and a rather young one. Where did you go to school? I am assuming you have some training in Psychology since you are prescribing a parent do cognitive therapy with their child, but you are pushing it from an adult dosage. Never, in twenty years, have I or any other therapist I know insisted on an hour for the first time alone in a room, house, or what ever. Usually we start in small increments, five or ten minutes with smaller children, 15 minutes to half an hour for older ones, and never moving at the rate you suggest. You cannot fast forward treatment like that, especially for a child who cannot cognitively understand what you're doing. This is not Pavlov's dogs, this is a child, one who believes he has legitimate fears and belittling them will not make them better. Giving him the power to dispel the "monsters" for himself and helping him to see there is nothing to fear is how you empower him not forcing him to face his fears at 5 alone.

Shawn - posted on 09/29/2012

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Have you tried white noise? My youngest was a premie and wouldn't sleep in his room at all until I bought a small fan and hung it on the ceiling in his room. We left it on continuously and he was sleeping through the night in about a week. Add a small night light too, one that comes on in the dark and shuts off in the light. That should help dispel the shadows that may be scaring him. And make him a bottle of Monster Be Gone... febreeze in a bottle labeled Monster Be Gone to spray around the room and under the bed.. smells good so better dreams and helps him feel more powerful.

Nancy - posted on 09/27/2012

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children are very close to the spirit ream.God watches over all the little children.but the darkness of satan is very real.don;t tell your kids there is nothing there because there is. Good or evil.pray over your kids, put praise and worship music on at night.anoint the house with oil.i am a spirit filled christian .my 5 yr.old just woke up this morning at 4;00 yelling saying someone was in the room.heart pounding..put him on the couch with me put his blanket over him and prayed in the spirit and spoke against any attacks on him.read the holy bible it;s in there.God be with you and your family and peace to you and your home.

Bobbie - posted on 09/20/2012

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@Sandy, I have apologized in private to you but wish to address it here as well. I didn't mean to upset or anger you.

Sandy - posted on 09/20/2012

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Bobbie my son doesn't have any fear of going to sleep, he sleeps over his friends house without any "magic", this was just an idea. Just because you studied this doesn't make you an expert he knows what is real & not real....

Bobbie - posted on 09/19/2012

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Gretchen, though I have responded twice I haven't actually addressed your issue head on. Here is what I know to be effective in a loving, calm way.

~ explain to him that none of his fears have any reality to them. Do not address them one by one. Example: He says "yeah, but what if....." You can say "if IFs and Buts were candy and nuts there would be enough for everyone to have a treat". That is the silly saying the pediatrician used to redirect the constant thought pattern of one subject. When he asks you what it means you can tell him that it means no matter how much he thinks can go wrong that it just doesn't happen.

~ Place him in his room one half hour before bedtime. No night light, no music, or soothers. Tell him you are going to come get him in just one hour. That you won't forget and that you don't want him to come out. That you want him to lay in bed and think different thoughts about ideas he has, what he wants to do on vacation, or what he thinks it will be like Christmas morning. Give him at least 3 things to think about. Tell him when you get him up you want to hear all about his ideas. That you two will have a little treat of cookies and milk or hot chocolate or something and talk about all his fun things. BUT you won't discuss his thoughts about what if's and you won't allow him to have a treat if he comes out of his room.

Then kiss him, tuck him in and remind him with a smile about the thought ideas you have given him. Reassure him that you have set the timer and that you will come get him in exactly one hour, you promise.close his door completely, no concessions for his fears.

If he stays in his room for the timed hour then follow through with the treat, the special time alone with you talk about how proud you are of him that he had those good thoughts.

At the end of your talk tell him that you are very sleepy, Ask him what he is going to think about now that he is going to go back to bed. If he reverts back to crying and saying he is afraid tell him that you know he can have happy thoughts, and that he is no longer going to sleep in your room no matter what. And that you have a bed too and that you know he is safe and warm in his bed. I am not saying it will work overnight but if he is not permitted to come to your bedroom he must stay in his room he will cry it out the first night. You would have been up anyway. But the second night when he realizes that no matter what he did he wasn't able to get you to sleep with him or get to go to your bed, he will settle down in his own room. You see, he has been conditioned to think that he need only be in his room if you are with him. He then feels fearful in that room period. He then knows that when he wakes if you aren't in it with him he isn't safe so he runs to your side where he finds safety. To allow him to see for himself that the room isn't scary and that this is where he sleeps, no matter what, he will grow to feel comfortable in it and own it as a place of calm. PS. His bedroom can't be his timeout place or the place you send him when he is misbehaving. This makes it feel like a negative place.

Bobbie - posted on 09/19/2012

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@Sandy, though this works for your son now and I have to point out to Gretchen that this is a RITUAL that he asks that you preform in times of high anxiety. This "magic" that you preform for him is in fact a coping mechanism for that specific fear. If he thinks it is this ritual that works on that fear it will lead to him creating or requesting a ritual to ward off bad thoughts or events with the next thing that causes him high stress / anxiety. At age 9 he should be aware of what is real and what is imaginary in his surroundings, a ritual may be blurring that line for him. This ritual could also delay his fears by not allowing him to know that the nightmares have stopped on their own without it.

Just pointing out what my studies into child development and childhood disorders have taught me on this specific subject. That parents need to step back and not "fix" with rituals or checks under a bed by the developmental age in which the child knows the difference between real and imaginary. At the age of 9 a child can legally testify in court as to what is true, right from wrong and what is real and not real. So, that being said, I stress that at a certain age a child needs to learn to sooth himself and know what it real so that he can learn to depend on himself, his thoughts, and what he knows to be real to outgrown the imaginary fears in times of stress.

I hope haven't upset you. This may not be information you wished to receive as you were reaching out to someone to comfort them with what works for you. I feel it is dangerous to do so with a child of 6. As I said, it works for the short term, but his fear has not resolved, it has only been made to 'magically listen to your ritual" to keep him safe.

Sandy - posted on 09/19/2012

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My son who is now 9 had trouble going to sleep having nightmares & generally waking up so one night I performed mummys special "magic" to to take the badness away from that night on he never woke up again, & still to this day he wants me to perform my "magic". Maaybe you could try your own it might work.

Bobbie - posted on 09/18/2012

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This is a child's form of anxiety. You know how we stress and worry about things that may be? Well, for little ones their anxiety levels create an over active imagination. It is very real and I don't have a blanket answer for every child past "normal" adjustment age to the dark. But I do know that you can address it with your pediatrician and ask to seek mental health evaluation. In addition there are books you can read to address the anxiety which will lesson his night time fears.

I am not saying your child will develop OCD, but many children with anxiety begin to feed more and more into the anxiety by creating worse and worse senerios of what might be in their room or what may happen if they stay in the dark. To combat the sheer fear of the "what if" they create rituals they think will keep them safe. These rituals make no sense to us but to them they can keep bad things from happening by doing their rituals. Every time they do the ritual and nothing bad happens to them or their family they think it didn't happen because the ritual kept them safe. It builds from there into OCD. Kids who really fear the dark past a "normal" age / whatever age that may be, should be given the extra help of a mental health professional evaluation to access their anxiety, fears and help them cope with sleeping in the dark.

Meg - posted on 09/18/2012

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My son is somewhat like that. He is 8. It is at the point if my husband and him fall asleep in our bed, I sleep in his. He is getting to big to move (55lbs). I have also heard that spray of water with a little lavendar an chamomile helps. Some kids have an active imagination. My son just lies there with his eyes open. thinking.

Jeanette - posted on 09/17/2012

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My 3 year old gets scared at night and ends up in bed with us at about 3am. As snuggly as he is, I sort of want to break this habit, too. It's surprising sometimes what they can become scared about, too. I remember reading somewhere about homemade monster spray, where you can add a couple of drops of essential oil to a spray bottle of water, keep it by your child's bed, and then if they get scared of monsters, you can spray the monster spray to keep all monsters far, far away. This will empower them, too if they want to spray the monster spray before bedtime. Or whenever they get scared.

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