8 Year Old Is Now Afraid of Sleeping Alone

We have a challenge we can't seem to solve. About 4 months ago our 8yr became unable to sleep alone. He says he is scared. He started to try to get in our bed which we allowed for a few nights since it was a new problem. We realized we couldn't allow it permanently and refused to let him in, so then he started to sleep on the floor next to the bed and he continues to do so every night.

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He has never been a good sleeper, always talking in his sleep, having bad dreams but he did at least sleep in his own room and bed. If he did have a bad dream, he would come to our room and I would take him back to his, cuddle him, pray, tuck him back in and all would be fine. I do sleep in his room when he is sick because his room is at the opposite end of the house and I want him to feel that I am near in case he needs help.

There are no other alternatives for the location of his room and I know he is upset that we are on opposite ends but it's always been that way. I just can't bear to lock him out. Also I often sleep on the couch because my husband and I both have acute health problems and we disturb each other. When I sleep on the couch, I am just outside my son's door yet he still won't stay in his room. He'll sleep on the floor next to the couch. I could survive that but he wakes me up off and on during the night. I've run out of ideas to try.

We've done the night lights, in fact, three of them at once, talking about it, praying, tucking him in with his many stuffed animals, snuggling, a snack before bed, reading wonderful cheery books. He says he's afraid of everything such as the dark, someone breaking in, a fire with our wood stove, and something scary he saw in a movie. We are careful about movies that are not appropriate and we don't have TV.

He has a very high reading and comprehension ability and on occasion he browses the newspaper when it is on the kitchen table. That has plenty of scary stuff. If he hears some thing on the radio he picks up on it right away. He keeps putting on all the lights. I asked him to draw a picture of the things he is afraid of but he says he will just color the paper black. Other than this he is a very happy go lucky, cheerful, high energy, social, extremely talkative, bright little boy with an impossible strong will.
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He is a difficult child in that he wants to control everything and we are very often in a power struggle. We work very hard to be consistent with him but he never gives up. I thought he could be manipulating us but I truly believe he is afraid. I am so exhausted I'm at my wits end. Does anyone have any thoughts about this?

Dottie from NY

February 14, 20080 found this helpful
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Maybe you could get a monitor that will allow you to talk to each other so if he gets fearful he can speak to you and you to him. Maybe that's more like a walkie-talkie. Also, maybe you could offer some sort of "reward" for staying at least part of the night in his room and extend the time required for getting the reward. I don't mean a toy every day or food but maybe a special treat time with you alone where you and he or maybe you, he and dad go for a walk or to the park or something else he enjoys without siblings.

All of us here are concerned but we're (probably) not trained. Maybe the best idea is to talk to your dr. and be sure to check out the school abuse thing.

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February 17, 20080 found this helpful
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Let him take a simple spray of glitter (not boyish but visible) and spray away the fears in his room. Kind of like bug spray but for everything he's afraid of. By his taking control of the situation this may help. Also it will eventually go away. Most stages like this are just that, stages. Good luck.

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February 19, 20080 found this helpful
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I am sure, from what I've read, that your son is above average intelligence, with a lively imagination and the normal fears of many sensitive 8 year olds.

I also think your own health problems have some bearing on this; after all, you sleep on the couch occasionally, so why shouldn't he change where he's sleeping?

It's true that our children notice our own behaviour and health issues and worry that they might be left alone one day. (though they may not be able to articulate this) They have no discernment at 8 years old that this happens to everyone and they cope.

Getting the diagnosis of ADD & ODD is great, now you know that there are things to work through and with. Never allow him to believe that having these makes him 'lesser than' in any way. ADD kids are often the leaders :-)

Although this will be a phase, because your son is so strong willed and likes to be in charge (even of you!) don't let this very real fear develop into a means of manipulating you. He still needs the firm guidelines you've always provided.

Have you tried audio books? When my son went through this phase, we did everything you have done and it threatened to develop into more than a phase so I bought several 'talking books'- making sure there was nothing in them that was scary. He also had music tapes and relaxation tapes which we used together to help calm "our" fears.

The rule then became when he woke up he'd listen to a book, then relaxing, sometimes classical, music - he was in control of this and he was happy with that, especially as we encouraged his vivid imagination to make good pictures of the music created in his mind.

We don't have TV either, nor do we get newspapers or magazines and negative conversations by adults are discouraged in front of the children. Eight is too young to cope with the horrors of the world.

As Glenn's Mom said, we are all concerned for you, so I hope some of our suggestions work out. Rest assured, he won't be like this for ever!

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February 24, 20080 found this helpful
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I have an 8 year old with the same issues, he has 2 night lights, and music. I gave him my t-shirt so that my smell would be with him. It seems to be working. Also, I have a strict bedtime routine as my son has Aspergers. He has a bath in the Johnston bedtime bath stuff, the lavender stuff, and it works. Then he watches cartoons while eating his snack, which is dairy and works as a soother for him, and then off to bed with my shirt and his favorite bedtime friend. It works! The consistency has worked for him.

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March 14, 20090 found this helpful
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My grandson was having no trouble going to sleep, but would occasionally have "bad dreams". He is a very sensitive child and watching news programs, with all the associated drama and trauma, would sometimes affect him. He was worried about something happening to his family. Try limiting exposure to violent and traumatic news items. My daughter also bought him an Indian dream catcher and explained that this would protect him from having bad dreams; he rarely has bad dreams now. So the power of positive thinking has been extremely beneficial. Hope this helps you.

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February 14, 20080 found this helpful

i have no idea what to suggest to you but my heart goes out to him. he must be in constant fear for some reason. Could it be something or someone at school that may be upsetting him? I pray you find the answers for his peace of mind. my heart broke for him reading your post. May God Lead you to the answers you need.

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February 14, 20080 found this helpful

My boy will be 8 in March. He isn't afraid to sleep in his room but he shares with a younger brother. He is currently having trouble at school and we are having him assessed for ADHD. When you mentioned the power struggles and manipulation, I was reminded of my own son. That wanting to be in control, poor sleep habits and active imagination (and intelligence) are symptoms of ADHD and related behavior disorders. It might be a good idea to talk to your pediatrician and see if there might be any help from that source.

Other than that, I might suggest that you take him for a walk in the dark before bed, to get him used to the nighttime and see that there isn't anything too scary about it. This will also tire him out. Or maybe rearrange his room with his input so he can feel more at home in there. Is his room too cold at night? Do you have a pet? Maybe a cat or dog that could be a nighttime companion might be of some help.

Good luck.

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February 14, 20080 found this helpful

i did have another thought you mentioned your husband and you both have acute health problems do you think maybe is afraid of something happening to either of you and that's why he wants to be near you at night. Has there been a resent health scare with either of you in the past months that has him nervous now. or has a house near you had some type scare lately like break in, fire etc. I have to disagree with going walking in the dark before bed time. until you find out what is causing his fears that would only make him more afraid. hes only 8yrs old I would handle the situation delicately and not scare him further. Maybe someone in school has threatened him and his fear in showing in this way. I pray you find answers to help him.

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February 14, 20080 found this helpful

Is it possible your son is being bullied by someone? Another child or even an adult like a teacher, minister, etc. Abusive people often tell children that if they tell something terrible will happen to their parents. Why don't you talk to his friends, they may have the answer.

God Bless you all.

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February 14, 20080 found this helpful

Thank you everyone for your concerns and suggestion. I would like to let you all know that I am certain that no one is bullying him. We homeschool and so he is with me most of the time. Grandparents sit on occasion, but he is overjoyed to go visit them all always. Infact he calls them all often, somethimes everyday. When other folks sit him he loves it. When we have our weekly get togethers with our homeschool peer group he is thrilled and isn't hesitant to tattle on anyone so I doubt anyone could get away with being a bully. He also isn't hesitant to speak his mind to any adult. We don't live in a neighborhood or have neighbors. He does have ADHD and ODD and we are in the process of learning how to work with those areas of challenge. He loves to have the dog sleep in his room, but the dog won't stay the whole night. Perhaps the walkie talkie idea or a baby monitor would help him feel safer. I will let you know if it works.

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February 15, 20080 found this helpful

My son slept on the floor beside my bed for a few months when he was around 6 or 7 (he might have been 8, it's been a while ago), but it was something he grew out of. I was a single parent and I didn't feel comfortable letting him sleep in my bed. But every morning I'd find him on the floor beside my bed. I think it was just something that made him feel closer to me and maybe safer. You might try letting him sleep there for a little while and see how it goes. I would start him out sleeping in his own room though. It could be that once he knows he's allowed, he'll quit and go back to his room on his own.

Also for a short period, he seemed to be afraid of the boogie man who might be under his bed. We had a shooting match with the boogie man and shot him dead. No more problems with the boogie man.

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February 15, 20080 found this helpful

We got a good book on ODD for my son called "The Explosive Child". It has some good techniques for dealing with the behavior. I'm not doing everything correctly but we are getting there.

Jess

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February 15, 20080 found this helpful

I saw a program on DR. Phil once about this very problem. I'm not sure the child had any of the challenges your child faces but it might be helpful to get on drphil.com and see if there are any ideas. I do not agree with all of dr phil's ideas but he did do a good job in this situation. I know some of my kids have gone through stages like this but were younger. Some of them needed extra security some were manipulative. You have to decide this as you live with him! :) I have heard it suggested that a routine is very important. Such as bath, cuddles and story. Then bedtime. And always be more stubborn than they are. That alone is enough to wear us out! ha. I will pray for you...Don't give up!! from another home school mom.

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February 15, 20080 found this helpful

I have 4 children. Our youngest who is 8 had this problem when he was 7. He is add but not odd. We do two things. First we told him it is normal to feel scared when you are 8. Tell him not to worry, and pray with him "Lord, if there is anything visable or invisable that could harm us tonight please bind it up and send it to a dark place. I ask this in Jesus' precious name, amen."

Second, we would pray the prayer for a while letting him know he can go to bed in his room now because God is protecting him. Don't use words like "by yourself". Let him know he has to fight the feeling and ask God to take the scary feelings away. That he has to practice being a man someday, that he's a big boy, and tell him you will crack your door.. It has worked for us. Blessings

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February 15, 20080 found this helpful

I wonder if there is something that you could do to prevent him from waking up in the night. He is obviously a light sleeper, so perhaps there is something in his diet that prevents him from sleeping deeply . I am just brainstorming here -- something he is eating or drinking that has caffeine perhaps -- like iced tea or cocoa?? Maybe you could read up on such things as perhaps there is something else that could bother him-- food additives?? Maybe something is waking him up, and some sort of soft music playing or something like that might prevent him from waking -- like when you put babies to sleep in a car, and they sleep really well.

Also, I would just remind you that this too, will pass. He is not going to be doing this when he is 16. Maybe it is something that you just have to put up with for a while, until he grows out of it.

Maybe he needs some sort of comfort thing, like a special blanket or a teddy, that might help as well.

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February 15, 20080 found this helpful

You mentioned that you pray with him; I assume you are devout to some religion, and close to a church elder. Ask him or her to come and bless your house. My daughter was 2 when she went through this, but she was "talking to visitors" at night.

My brother is a minister, he came with water from the river Jordan and blessed every room, window, and door in the house. No more visitors.

I know it sounds insane, and really, I feel like a kook writing this, but that's what worked for us.

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February 15, 20080 found this helpful

First of all the one who posted about the minister blessing the house, you are not a KOOK. I have had my trailer blessed too. Two things that might help one is put a baby monitor in his room so you can hear him, but he can't keep you awake and talk all night long. Also let him sleep with the lights on, and when he is in a deep sleep turn off the lights.

When I have bad dreams I just put my bible under my pillow open to Psalm 23 and just let the angels and God take over. Also when the minister comes over have him bless a small rag or handkerchief and pin it on him at night. Ok and tell him it is not his job to worry. God is in charge.

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February 15, 20080 found this helpful

Get him into counseling, both individual and family counseling.

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February 15, 20080 found this helpful

My son has anxiety issues and some of the same things that you mentioned made me think of him though he is younger, 6 years old. He went to therapy for several months on a weekly basis and we learned some techniques on how to help him. For example, if he is afraid of aliens, which he knows are not real, we will take turns using imagery to make the aliens silly. So I will say the alien has pink hair and he will say they are wearing purple dresses with pink hearts, they have on red earrings, green shoes, and we take turns until he is laughing. By the way the aliens are always male so the pink and the hearts is extra funny. By making the aliens look silly we acknowledge his fears and help him deal with them at the same time. This was not an easy place to get to but after months of therapy it happened. I also have chronic health concerns and he had a diagnosis of ADD. I hope that this makes sense since I tend to ramble, and that even if you don't take anything helpful from what I say you will find something to help your son and yourselves soon!

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February 28, 20080 found this helpful

I have 2 child with sleeping problems. My 9 year daughter was similar to your son. She has trouble falling asleep, vivid nightmares and is a light sleeper. We tried several strategies like the warm bath, warm milk, story etc, praying with her before bed. hHile this helped a little, it didn't solve the problem. She would lie in bed all night awake or come through and want to sleep with us. As she was having trouble learning to write, we took her to the doctor and then a specialist. She was diagnosed with Dyspraxia - which is a central processing order. Part of this disorder is being very sensitive to loud or repetitive music or visual stimulation.

The routine we now follow with good results is the strict routine of homework being completed by 7.30pm, 15 minutes to play and unwind, warm shower, warm milk, and story or light tv. She goes to bed at 8.30pm, we pray with her and she has a lamp left on all night. She used to go to sleep with lullaby music playing but has since stopped this. She found it very hard to unwind at the end of the day and also dealing with the death of her grandma (she died just after this started).

When she has a nightmare she comes through to us and we sit and have a cuddle, take her back to bed and sometimes read a very quick story. We pray again and then if she still is not sleepy, she is allowed to read her library book or play with her bed toys. We also invested in some posters for her room, she has some of the disney characters on the wall, things that she likes to look at and feels safe with. We have also eliminated all foods with red, green etc food dyes, processed meats and processed foods from her diet. (we allow her to have several lollies or chocolates twice a week in the morning). She also has fish oil tablets.

So far we have had excellent results. She stays in her room and is sleeping through most nights, the nights she wakes up, she reads or plays quietly and then goes back to sleep. I find that when she has something troubling her, is when she starts having mad dreams. She will come through and talk to me, I keep a note pad beside the bed and write down what she says. In the morning we talk about what she dreamt about. Sometimes it might take her until the evening to want to talk but it really helps. I also bought her a guardian angel statue to watch over her.

My son who is 6 has started having similar problems. He does not have any disorders but we have found that the strict night routine, praying, eliminating additives etc from his diet has really worked. We have also put posters in his room and put roller shutters on both the kids windows to shut out the night time noises. I keep 2 of the kids follow out couches and a sleeping bag in my wardrobe, so that if the kids are really upset, they can quickly bed down. The best advice my mum gave me was to acknowledge their fears and find out ways to over come them. Good luck and I will pray for you also.

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March 3, 20080 found this helpful

I had sleep problems when I was a child too - you can get past them, but you must make sure there's nothing medically wrong (physical symptoms can cause what you're seeing in your boy). Take him to your family doctor, and follow everything he/she might suggest to get to the bottom of it.

What helped me was family/individual counseling (yes, as a child), and a definite sleep routine; go to bed at a certain time and up again at a certain time, every night. I'd definitly recommend counseling!

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April 1, 20080 found this helpful

I'd bet that EVERY child is afraid of the dark at some time in their lives. At least I was! My first 3 kids were too, but when the youngest one came along later in my life, I taught him from the beginning that: "Jesus is the light of the world, he takes away darkness. He loves you & will always take care of you. He will always make sure you are safe & He sends his angles to watch over you while you sleep, so you don't EVER have to worry". This helped him a lot & I don't think he was ever afraid. Whenever I told him this it calmed him down & helped him relax. Whatever your belief system is, a belief like this can greatly increase your child's feeling of security! And even though I'm now 53, I will repeat to myself what I said above when I'm alone in a dark parking lot or somewhere I, myself fear. This belief also relaxes & comforts me too!

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September 24, 20080 found this helpful

I have tried everything to get my 8yr old to sleep in her room. She is very afraid that someone my break in to our house and we have never had that happend to us. My heart just breaks when she starts crying. I am not sure if she is scared because she is an only child. I always ask her what is her problem and she never wants to tell me she just startes to cry. At last she always end up in my BED with me.

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August 30, 20120 found this helpful

Wow! This is great. I have an 8 year old daughter who is going through this too. I recently got married and she's with me half the time. She loves her step mom but is also a bit jealous. Thought this was the case and the answer but this started happening at her mom's house too. (we are all on very good terms).

I'm comforted by one constant here; that this is not unusual for someone in the 8 year old range and that it's most likely a stage out of which she will grow. However we are taking her to counseling next week.

I very much enjoyed reading the loving and intelligent responses from everybody in this group. While I'm not a Christian or very religious I also don't think anyone's a kook for saying god in some form, will protect you. Why not? We all need the sleep and you may be right.

Peace and sleep-filled nights to all.

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August 25, 20150 found this helpful

I am not a medical doctor, but I would advise you making an appointment for your son to see one. From what I read, I am see signs of anxiety and OCD (Obsessive Compulsive Disorder). The statement on "wanting to control everything" is a clue. I think a visit to a physician is the best advise anyone can give you. I would also choose a doctor that deals with childhood emotional issues.

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