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Saturday, December 11, 2010

Bedtime Woes & Bad Dreams...

We have been undergoing quite a bit of transition in the house.  After a tough couple of weeks and a shake-up with the girls school situation, things seem to be,  And this is never more obvious than at bedtime.

The hot pocket's (now almost 3) previously easy and seamless bedtime routine is now turning into a nearly 1 hour drama, filled with cajoling, books, back rubs and crying.  Oh, and snuggles; she requires lots of them.  And she has worn down my husband's patience, which is very difficult to do.

The Boober (4), on the other hand, has always been quite a handful at night.  The problem, we have determined....she is resistant to sleep.  She lays in bed for a while, and just when you think she may be sleeping, she pops her head in our room to let us know that she is still awake.  And scared.  This can go on until 11 pm.

At first I thought she was "faking" the whole scared thing.  What could she possibly be afraid of in her safe and cozy room?  Well, last night I became convinced that her fears are real.  She was getting ready to go to sleep and her blinds were open and she said "scary tree" and made me close them.  And, in thinking about it, I realized that the winter trees with no leaves and scary shadows may very well be intimidating.  Then, as she does every night, she screams out in the night in the middle of a bad dream.  A couple of ear piercing cries later, I checked on her.  She said..."too many monsters mommy...".  Poor girl...Disney movies are haunting my baby.  I think she may even be afraid to go to sleep.  What solves this problem...of course, someone laying in bed with her.

So, what is a good parent to do?

This brings me to the frequent conundrum between PARENT and PEDIATRICIAN, the difference between DOCTOR and MOM.

The Pediatrician would say...

  • These are classic nightmares
    • Appropriate age (commonly 3-6 when imaginations run wild but the distinction between fantasy and reality is not clear).
    • They happen late in the sleep cycle (not in the deep stages of sleep like night terrors).
    • The child remembers (vividly) what the dream was about and may be afraid to go back to sleep.
  • Do NOT let this be the start of a NEW bad habit...
    • Do NOT let her sleep in your bed because it may make her scared of her own bed
    • Do NOT begin sleeping in her bed because it will become difficult for her to sleep alone
  • Reassure her and let her know that she is safe.
  • Reassure the parent that this is a common stage for children, and it will improve.
The PARENT would say:
  • Go to her when she needs you.  Reassure her and stay until she is asleep, or no longer afraid.  If you are exhausted, may end up sleeping there. Or you may just find her in your bed in the morning.
  • Let her know that dreams and nightmares are a part of every person's active IMAGINATION.  
  • Try to prevent them by not watching scary movies or reading scary books (umm...every Disney movie has a good villain).
  • Think of ways to keep the "bad guys" away...
  • Let her have a security object to keep her feeling safe...or 20 animals/blankets/pillows to fill the bed.
  • If all else your DOCTOR (ha!)
So...calling all mommies out there, any other suggestions for me?


SmartBear said...

I'm chuckling as I read this because as a mom who is a child and family therapist, I can totally relate. So I will try to not sound too expert-like and more like a mom friend.
Rather than avoiding particular movies (because everyone has an opinion about that) I would suggest no television at all after 4 p.m. There's lots of research out there about stimulation from electronics (and specifically animation) and it's effect on the brain. Try designating the hours between 5 and 7 as uninterrupted family time when you play together. Lots of cuddles and attention. Before the brain can organize itsself for sleep, it needs that limbic/calming connection. I would also ask what the scheudle is? A too late bedtime can cause kids to be overtired and a too early bedtime can cause trouble too.
More than anything though, rituals are a big piece of avoiding behavior problems with bedtime. "I Love You Rituals" by Dr. Becky Bailey will give you some good ideas to try.
Also? I would encourage some discussion and some choices. Choices as in "It's time for bed. Would you like a bath first or a story first?" Choices that are both okay with you. (Beware of the "I changed my mind" trick on choices!)
Hope it gets better soon. I have found that sometimes my Momma brain knows best!

Kate Pantier @ Mommy Monologues said...

The book that saved our lives is "The Good Night, Sleep Tight" book by Kim West, LCSW. It's for infants up to 5 year olds. My kiddo is only 19 months so I haven't gotten into the older kid sections, but so far this book has revolutionized our lives the last 9 months! I highly recommend it! I wish I could show up at all baby showers with this book!

Author's Site:

AND, if you like what you see the link:

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