3.5 year old DD afraid of bedtime because of a "scary bedtime book". Help! - Mothering Forums

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#1 of 9 Old 03-07-2006, 03:39 AM - Thread Starter
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For the past several months, my 3.5 year old DD has been going to bed and to sleep very well on her own. We have a nice bedtime routine, and then at the end of it, I sing a song to her, and kiss her goodnight and a few "good nights" and "I love yous" and then I leave her room and close the door and she is off to sleep.

WELL...we had the unfortunate happenstance of reading one of our new library books about some teddy bears going to bed who were scared of the dark, of things under the bed, in the closet, etc. I was reading this book to DD for the first time, and while reading it, realized that I didn't want to read everything in the book to her - thinking it was going to scare her - so I paraphrased on the spot and tried to gloss over the parts about under the bed stuff and the closet, etc. But I don't think I did a good enough job paraphrasing!

Now, she is scared to go to bed. She does not want me to leave the room. She cries and cries if I try to go before she is asleep. I try to reassure her that she is safe, etc, but nothing I say seems to work! I am now back to laying with her until she is completely asleep. And even then, she has to tell me before she goes to sleep that "sometimes I wake up at night and am scared and I don't know where you are." And I say, "I'm in my room, right across the hall."

But, I need some advice. Now, if anyone wants to suggest co-sleeping, please don't bother. My DD is a major KICKER at night, flips all over the bed, DH and I cannot sleep with her. So that isn't happening. I don't necessarily have a problem staying with her until she is asleep. But what I would like to know - is there any way to reassure her that she is safe, and perhaps to help her get back to feeling comfortable with me leaving the room while she is awake, so she can fall asleep on her own again?

I have to add - at this point, I don't know how much of her crying is actually due to being scared - or how much of it is to simply to get me to stay in her room. You see, we went through months and months of adjustment to get her to the point where I could leave the room while she was awake. I wonder if she is reverting back, and using the "I'm scared" thing as an excuse. And yet, I want to be careful to not assume that - she COULD really be scared and then I would feel like a heel for leaving her in her room. I just don't want to have her cry herself to sleep.

Well, if any of this makes sense and you have any ideas, I sure could use them!
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#2 of 9 Old 03-07-2006, 04:13 AM
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What about "(insert scary thing here) spray" made up of water and some essential oils like lavender? Make a big deal about how it works and empower her to ward off the scary stuff with scent.

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#3 of 9 Old 03-07-2006, 07:58 AM
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Indiegirl - Scary Spray is exactly what i used when my son went thru this phase!! We called it his "Super Power Spray" and just before bed he would walk ALL over the house to spray any areas that he was scared of - doors, windows, under the bed, etc. It was very empowering for him to be in control over the situation and this method worked wonders for us!!! I made a big deal out of the bottle and we decorated it with stickers and glitter!!
It's amazing how well it worked for us! Good Luck!
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#4 of 9 Old 03-08-2006, 12:36 AM
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Oh mama, I could have written this post a year and a half ago. With us, it was a cute book about cows in a wind storm which happened to look like a tornado and got DS questioning. DH and I did our usual of answering his questions simply and truthfully. What tornadoes are, etc. It didn't seem like a big deal however, this benign situation began a whole new trend in bedtime at our house. *sigh*

I do feel to a certain extent that it could have been anything. This book triggered it, but it could have been another, or another. DS has an immense imagination so it was bound to happen at sometime or another and I think 3.5 is a pretty typical time for this. Like you, we had been enjoying nearly a year's worth of happy, easy bedtime after a rough 2 1/2 year start. *sigh*

I had absolutely NO LUCK with the "spray scenario" that has been mentioned but I do know it works for some so it's certainly worth a try. Best of luck!

For us? DS just didn't buy it, for when he would lay there it was his brain that he couldn't control--it had it's thoughts and nothing or nobody could change that, really. Add to that, he happened to have what I think was his first real nightmare at this time. Yep, I could spray all I wanted but then if he had a nightmare, he KNEW the spray didn't work, etc.

I don't have any real advice here. This whole thing actually afforded us that missed opportunity to co-sleep which we were wishing we'd done when DS was a babe. But I admit, I missed those easy bedtimes! DS does now need me to be with him while he falls asleep, but I step out after he's nodded off. He falls asleep in our bed and we transfer him to a small bed/mattress on the floor of our room when we come in to bed.

This all happened in stages mind you. At first, he just needed me to stay with him while he fell asleep, and then he ended up waking up a lot and most nights, ending up in our bed at some point. It was getting exhausting and going on and on, no one sleeping very well and the whole family getting crankier by the day, the week, the month. I finally put a mattress on our bedroom floor and told him if he needed to he could come into our room if he woke up at night, etc. And he did, with rare exception, end up on our floor most nights. And then, after a traumatic bout of illness (rotavirus) last April where we let him sleep in our room from the first of the night, we ended up just taking the bed out of his bedroom, turning it into a playroom and he's still sleeping with us. And, I think we've still got a ways to go on this one, and we're ok with it, mostly. Some nights I still miss being able to say goodnight and get to my "me time" a little earlier, but DS and I did strike a deal that I could read while he falls asleep with my small nightstand light on... and yes, I have been very good about catching up on my reading so there's a plus! To say nothing of, we are finally getting the sleep we all need. DS rarely wakes up at night now and if he does, we're right there and he falls right back to sleep. If he wakes before we come to bed (rare or phase-ish), he's usually easy to get back to sleep so long as we keep the door open and he can hear us "about the house."

Hope something here helps you, the spray, comisery, what have you. Best of luck to you and your family!

The best,

Em 43 - Wife to hubby Mom to DS born: Jan. '01
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#5 of 9 Old 03-08-2006, 08:40 AM
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You do not mention if you have a light on for her or not. Just a thought as something else to try along with the spray idea which I think it great. DS recently started being more nervous about the dark so we leave the light on until he is alseep and then shut it off. He has a nightlight too. Sometimes if he wakes up he turns his light back on and goes back to sleep on his own.
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#6 of 9 Old 03-08-2006, 10:44 AM
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Get the book "Go Away Big Green Monster" by Ed Emberley.
My son used to have us read that book at night and then he also kept a big stuffed dog in his room "to protect him" because monsters/ghosts/etc. were afraid of dogs.
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#7 of 9 Old 03-08-2006, 08:21 PM
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It sounds to me like your DS picked up on your own discomfort while reading the book. If it was me and I was little, I'd wonder "what is so scary that Mommy won't tell me about it?". Can you go back and read the book together, taking time to talk about what he may find scary in the book? I think we all want to protect our kids from the big scary world, but we need to be there to help them feel secure to work through their fears.

I too love the Ed Emberly book. I know that the scary spray has worked for some, but I think that letting kids feel empowered internally, through their words, is huge. I also really like Where the Wild Things Are. It shows that kids fears don't have to be avoided - that kids can work through them, face them, and tame them themselves (with some loving help).
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#8 of 9 Old 03-08-2006, 09:41 PM
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Our house has an invisible force field around it, sort of a bubble, and {insert child's feared things here} can't get through it.
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#9 of 9 Old 03-09-2006, 12:08 AM
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My ds is 3.5 and we have a similar bedtime routine, I usually leave before he's asleep. I've found that in various stages and with new fears sometimes he wants me in there with him. I haven't found any other way around it except to just lie there with him. When he was afraid of the dark, I got him a night light and had to lie in there with him for a few weeks. Now that has passed and I only have to stay in with him for 15 minutes or so, just until he's cozy and sleepy.
I have started leaving the hall light on outside our rooms other than a nightlight in his room, that was just too bright. I think it helps him feel more secure if he wakes up in the middle of the night.
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