C.D. asks from Austin, TX on January 25, 2009
Seeking Advice on Sleep Problems of 3 Year Old Boy
My three-year old son has just started having sleep problems both in going to sleep and staying asleep. Until recently, he was sleeping 12 hours a night with no problem falling asleep on his own after our bedtime routine. In the past few weeks, however, he is repeatedly waking up in the middle of the night calling for me frantically and says he is scared. He will not go back to sleep without me staying with him until he falls back asleep. This goes on several times throughout the night. I have brought him into my bed on a few occasions just to be able to sleep, but I'm afraid of starting a bad habit that will be more difficult to break later. He claims to be scared of monsters and is having bad dreams. When I've tried to let him cry it out, he just gets worked up more and more until he's jumping up & down and screaming for me. It takes a lot longer for him to go back to sleep after one of these episodes. Any advice on how to help him with these sleep issues would be most appreciated!
One more note, my husband travels quite a bit and our son seems to becoming more affected by his absence. I wonder if this could be affecting his sleep as well.
So What Happened?™
Thanks to everyone who provided some excellent ideas and advice for our son's sleep issues. We've tried several, and while he's still going through this stage, he does feel more empowered with the monster spray and other ideas. It also helps to know that we are not alone! Thanks again.
J.C. answers from Austin on January 27, 2009
Three years old is prime time for nightmares.It is very likely he truly is scared. It does get better eventually. But I would go to his room and comfort him there so you won't have the "how do I get this kid out of my bed" problems you read on here every day.
L.A. answers from Austin on January 25, 2009
You need "dream coins". A client told me about these many years ago. They are "magic coins". They look like quarters to everybody else, but when placed under your sons pillow, all scary things go away. Also when you travel, the quarters are great, because you do not have to worry about not having one, they will work on out of town scary nights, just like at home.
This worked very well for our daughter. One time when we were changing her sheets, I found a lot of coins under her pillow, I asked "why are there all of these coins under your pillow?". She said" I was having a really, really , scary dream so I put lots of coins there to make them go away"...
I remember another mom responded to this on mamasource, she said to get a spray bottle and to pour water in it, then you use this to "spray away" all of the monsters all around the room, closet, wherever the scary things are... I loved the idea...
A.J. answers from Killeen on January 26, 2009
have you tried helping him scare the monsters away? my younger daughter was terrified of monsters after her older sister decided it would be funny to scare her LOL we did a few different things to help her get over her fear. one thing was I got a new can of air freshener (something not too powerful-smelling) and I told her to point to where the monster was and I sprayed it. Also, during the day she would say there were monsters so I had her put on her rain boots and stomp the monsters, she thought this was hilarious! When she still insisted there were monsters, I acted fed up and said "OK that's it, these monsters have GOT to leave!" I asked her to show me where the monster was hiding and I pretended to grab his hand and take him to the front door and I threw him outside and shut and locked the door. I told her to look out the front window and see that he was locked outside now. So then every time she told me there was a monster in her room I would say "no, we locked him outside, remember?" And that was the end of her fear =) It took several nights of reminding her that the monster was outside, but eventually she forgot about it and she hasn't mentioned being afraid of monsters since then!
Now, when she was still scared and waking up in the middle of the night, I would just sit with her, get her a little drink, maybe sing her a song, and then kiss her and say "mommy's tired, I need to go back to bed now, I'll check on you in a few minutes" most times, she would be asleep in a few minutes, but if not, I'd just go in and remind her that it's time to sleep still and I would come back to check in a few more minutes.
I also leave her closet light on with the door just cracked so her room isn't too dark
Hope all this helps and you can get rid of your son's monsters too =)
S.T. answers from Houston on January 26, 2009
My girls have TWO nightlights in their room (they have two sets of bunkbeds so one light is in one corner and the other light in another corner.) They are special lights that cast stars and moons on the ceiling. I really love the stuffed animals that do that but they are kind of pricey and with 5 kiddos I can't get them all one.
My mom had a pallet on the floor next to her bed and when my sister got up during the night she came in the room and laid on the floor. There was a time limit and then my mom woke her up to go back to her own room. This was expected, and she was able to do it without too much complaint.
If you try the monster spray, try putting some lavender oil in it. It has a calming smell and the child KNOWS this isn't just water. hehe
You could also pray with your son before you put him down for the night. I don't usually, but I know that my just turned 6 YO does it on her own because she tells me about her conversations with God. :)
S., mom to 5 ages pre-born to 6
L.B. answers from Houston on January 26, 2009
Just wanted to let you know that your son has entered the 'magical thinking' stage which is completely normal at his age. This is when children start to become interested in all those make-believe things like monsters and ghosts and fairies...they are fascinated but at the same time these things can be scary, more so for some than others. I didn't read all your responses but it looks like you have some good advice...you need to be creative with your solutions, because it is his creative imaginatioin that is producing the problem to begin with! One thing that doesn't help is to try and convince him that it's not real or that he's being silly, etc. To him it is very real and he is truly scared. When my oldest went through this we gave her 'invisible monster spray' (we literally just held our hands in a position that looked like we spraying something from a bottle--you could use a real spray bottle with water too) and told her she could use it to scare the monsters away anytime she felt like it. Worked like a charm. You might want to limit his TV shows to only things that are intended for his age (like Noggin, PBS Kids or Nick Jr). A lot of Disney movies are even too scary at this age. Also it may help if your husband gives your son a photo of himself to keep by his bed and if possible, talk to him on the phone every night before bed while he is away or if that's not possible, record his voice saying goodnight or whatever your nightly routine is. My husband sings a little song to our girls every night at bedtime, so when he was traveling a lot and couldn't always speak to them at bedtime (if he was with a client at dinner or something), I would have him record the 'goodnight song' on our voicemail system and play it back for my girls at bedtime. Just anything you can think of to help him feel secure. Good luck to you!
M.M. answers from Houston on January 25, 2009
I have been a nanny for 6 years, I am a child enthusiast and have run into similar situations. Go to the store and pick out together a night light, even if you already have one pick out a new one with him let him choose. Take him home and before you tuck him in, after your bedtime routine have him turn it on. The key is to make a big deal, tell him it is a VERY special night light because monsters don't like it. Second, teach him a little saying to tell the monsters hes not scared. Sounds crazy but sometimes kids just need a little confidence. If this doesn't work put a little music on at night make sure the room is a comfortable temperature etc if this continues contact your doctor.
C.W. answers from Waco on January 26, 2009
sounds like something has scard him- either from TV or something else he has seen or heard. Have you tried happy bedtime stories- putting all his favorite toys , animals etc in bed with him.. searching under the bed and closets before bedtime to assure him there is nothing there etc-
then, sometimes little ones just use that as an excuse- but keeping him assured there is nothing there is the best thing. you might try re arranaging his bedroom furniture and letting him help so he can see there is nothing there- also, I am sure you are leaving a light on for him- that helps too-
M.B. answers from Houston on January 26, 2009
wow we have the same kid! My son is just getting past this stage.. it started a few months ago right before his baby sister came into the picture. His was either a monster or the big bad wolf. We told him to beat them with his lightsaber and they would go away. and that we live in a brick house and the big bad wolf can't get in... thank goodness the house is brick! sometimes that worked and sometimes it didn't. Until recently, he refused to go into a dark room when that hadn't bothered him before. I taught him to use things to flip the switch and his new independence with the lights has helped. We also explained that he might be dreaming "seeing pictures in his head that are really just play pretend" and he is pretty good about communicating that there isn't actually anything in his room, but he dreamt them and it scared him. he sneaks into our bed sometimes and goes right back to sleep. it used to bother me at first, but well, he's only 3 once, soon he won't want to be near me at all, so i can handle the occassional kick in the eye if it comforts him... good luck!
D.M. answers from Houston on January 26, 2009
My son went through that around 2 or 3 also. We taught him to growl at the monsters and scare them away. He would also quite firmly yell, "Go away, monsters!" He loved it! It lets him take control of the fear and see how silly it can be. It also allowed us to get some sleep, though we would sometimes wake up to his scaring away the monsters! LOL