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7-year old scared at night. Desperate for any advice please!

(11 Posts)
specialk1215 Sat 07-Jul-12 22:44:48

Hi there,
I am desperate for some good advice to help me with my seven year old daughter. In the last few months, she has been scared going to sleep at night, and she sometimes wakes up at night scared as well, and can easily take an hour or two to get back to sleep. When probed, she says she is scared of World War III. I am pretty sure this comes from an Enid Blyton Famous Five novel she started reading, which we have put away of course! I am not really sure she is truly scared of WWIII, or if she is simply using this as her excuse for feeling scared. Perhaps she doesn't even know why she is scared, or maybe she isn't scared at all and is just using it as an excuse to come downstairs (although I do sense she is truly scared of something). Prior to this all starting a few months ago, she was a great sleeper.

Basically, nothing stops her fear and allows her to go to sleep other than my husband or I sitting outside her door (we always stay out of eyesight and don't speak to her) until she falls asleep. My husband is much more patient than I am, but I find this so hard to take! We have tried everything I can think of. We have talked to her about her fears and reassured her that WWIII is not going to happen. We let her read in bed with the light on until she gets tired (careful to ensure the books aren't scary!). She has her special blanket and soft toy that she's had since she was tiny. We have a good nightlight on in her room, the bedroom door stays open and the hall light is on. Nothing seems to allay her fears. I always promise her I'll go up and check on her every hour, and I do.

About a month ago, we thought we had it cracked. In desperation to get my evening's back, I had basically bribed her and told her if she could sleep through the night two nights in a row, she'd get a treat (book, stickers, etc). Then three, then four, then five, etc. This seemed to work reasonably well, and after six nights in a row, she managed to continue to do it on her own as long as I promised to go up and check on her every hour, which I did diligently.

A couple nights ago, it has started again. Tonight was the straw that broke the camel's back for me. She wet her bed on purpose in order to have another excuse to come downstairs. I was livid, but tried to control my temper as I really thought she did this only because she was scared. I changed her sheets without saying much, although she knew I was upset. I told her I knew she had wet her bed on purpose, and I was trying not to be cross as I knew that she must have done it because she was really scared and wanted an excuse to come to me. She told me that this was true, and she was scared of WWIII. I asked her for any ideas on how I can help her, but of course, she couldn't think of anything. She is as desperate as I am I think! I really do empathise with her... but I can't take it anymore.

Tonight, I finally sat outside her room reading my book until she fell asleep, but I can't do this every night as it is often 10pm or later before this happens! My husband is away on work a lot and I tend to shoulder most of this burden myself, and I desperately need my evenings back as it is the only time I have to myself to get things done (or my husband and I have to ourselves).

I have tried to think if there might be something else going on in her life, but I don't think there is. She is generally very good at speaking to me about things that bother her, and other than night time, she is a happy, confident and very capable child. Thankfully, her younger brother falls asleep within seconds of his head hitting the pillow...

I am praying that one of your lovely mums or dads might have some ideas for me. How can I help her get past her night time fears?

Thank you in advance for any advice you might have.
-A very anxious, frustrated and desperate mum!

OP’s posts: |
DeWe Sun 08-Jul-12 00:41:48

Which Famous Five? I know them pretty well and none of them mention world wars as far as I am aware. The Adventurous Four are set in WWII but it's not made a huge thing of. Are they perhaps doing WWII at school?

Could you talk to her about how in the 60s they were afraid of WWIII with the Cold War and how USSR and US now have better relations etc.

I remember one of my teachers (year 5) getting very excited over a photo in a magazine of a Russian military aircraft and telling us how amazing it was to see how things had moved forward in the world, that they'd allowed that to have its photo taken by UK.

ThreadWatcher Sun 08-Jul-12 00:56:18

I hope this makes sense, its late and I should be in bed! (I have only skimmed your op as well blush please forgive, Ill read it properly tommorrow)

My dd has had a lot of problems with this recently. She is a very young 8yo.
What have we done that has helped?

She has always had a regular bedtime routine so that helped (knowing that she would in time return to that previous routine)
Her main issue was missing her dad who lives away - so he gave her his t shirt, she slept with it and sniffed it when she missed him. For a few days she carried it around the house with her.

She has just finished making a dolphin mobile (bday present from dad) to hang from her ceiling to remind her of him.
He gave a necklace (£3.99) for her birthday so she could wear it and also be reminded of him wherever she went.
She has a 'thing' that she can record voices onto and play back if she presses the button - so she got her dad to sing her favourite song onto it.

I carry on with my evening as normal but if she is STILL awake by 11pm (unusual) then I she sleeps in my room - when this problem first started she slept in my bed.
If she wakes during the night she still sometimes creeps in and sleeps on the 'nest' I made for her in my room "where I feel safe mummy".
We also are doing a lot to improve her confidence and self esteem during the day - hopefully has a knock on affect at bedtime?

Essentially my dds problem is being scared of being alone whilst awake at night (lonely insomnia!)

I have no idea if any of that is helpful.................... I hope your dd is happier soon.

cloudhands Sun 08-Jul-12 06:09:23

god I know what you mean about wanting your evenings back! It's hard work when you're trying to get a few hours to yourself but are also worried about what your children are going through I think you need to act sensitively and carefully about this. If she's wetting the bed just to get your attention I think it's time to listen. I think that your daughter needs you to help her work through her fears. With a little care and attention, she can go back to sleeping well and you will get your evenings back but until that happens you need to devote some time to this issue.
Firstly the reward system, won't work, as if you take away the rewards she may still sleep badly. Also it's not dealing with the fear.

Did you know that fears can be released through laughter? Play with your daughter and see what makes her laugh. Keep doing it over and over again, you could event some games around ''scary'' things such as a monster chasing your daughter etc , anything that makes her laugh rather than making her more scared!

Also if she cries around bedtime, listen to her crying without trying to stop it, offer a hug and your physical presense. as the fears and worries can be released through tears as long as she has loving support right by her. Don't worry about going into her, or talking to her, all this will build closeness with her and help her express her worries, and perhaps communicate more about what she's going through.

Playful parenting is a great book, there are also brilliant resources at the hand in hand parenting website, here are a couple articles to help with fears and sleep.

helping children with fears

helping children sleep

LeMousquetaireAnonyme Sun 08-Jul-12 06:36:30

DD1 (7) has been the same, still is sometimes. We don't say it won't happen, because it might. DD1 is scared of fire (she dreamt about the flat burning) and earthquake (we live in a earthquake zone).
BTH saying that WIII won't happen is not helping as you don't have any clue about it and at 7 she probably knows it.
What works for us, is that we explain to DD1 what to do in case of problems, showed her the precaution we had, and explain that it is really rare.
We also tell it is fine to be scared and that everybody is scared sometime, but it shouldn't stop anyone doing things.
DH is doing the silly distraction thing too. fountains of ice creams...

When DD1 is scared and crying after bedtime, I sit with her and cuddle like cloud said, no more than 10 min (it is usually enough). She like me to scratch her back and sing, it helps to release tensions, may be head massages.

When she can't sleep we allow her to fall asleep in our bed or to camp in her sister's (2) bedroom. (when in our bed we either move her or 1 of us stay with her and the other sleep in her bed.
That way she is reassured and our evening is not disturbed.

SofiaAmes Sun 08-Jul-12 07:01:48

Your poor dd. "wet her bed on purpose" you really believe that. Or if that really happened, even sadder that your dd is so frightened and desperate that she is resorting to wetting her bed to get the attention/comfort she needs.

It's a fairly normal phase for kids to get frightened of the night around that age. My dd (and most of her female friends) did. In fact, at that age she wouldn't even go into another room in the house during the day unless someone else went with her. Maybe you just need to give up having your evening to yourself for awhile until she is doing better. Unfortunately, part of being a good parent is subjugating your needs and wants to those of your children.

In the case of my dd, things that helped: letting her fall asleep in my bed (then carrying her back to her bed); reading very uplifting stories to her before bed (much more soothing than letting her read to herself); talking to her about how to "change" the endings of her nightmares to make them into good dreams (note: this is a probably too difficult for a 7 year old, but it sets the groundwork for them to do it when they are older....dd still gets nightmares now at 9, but is finally able to self soothe with some, not all, of them); when she does wake up, giving her soothing cuddles and not letting her know that you are tired and irritated so that she becomes less agitated, not more agitated, and goes to sleep more quickly; leaving all the lights on that she wants when going to sleep (it's not going to ruin her for life to go to sleep with the lights on, and may just help her get through the worst of this phase); remember that she is truly scared and/or just needs more nurturing that she is getting at the moment (I found that dd goes in waves of needing attention/cuddles and sometimes it just feels like she is a bottomless pit of neediness, but when I keep giving, it does get better and when I used to just ignore because I felt overwhelmed, it didn't).

SofiaAmes Sun 08-Jul-12 07:04:56

By the way, therapist recommended this book for dealing with anxiety and we/dd found it very helpful.

specialk1215 Sun 08-Jul-12 20:36:42

Thank you very much everyone for your helpful thoughts. That book looks great Sofia, I will give it a go. Threadwatcher, your comment of 'lonely insomnia' I think is a good phrase for my daughter as well. She has never liked being on her own and likes to have people close by. She is up at the top of the house, so I think she feels nervous being way up there on her own. We had a lovely bed time tonight, and we agreed that I would check on her every 15 minutes tonight and see if that helps. Fingers crossed we have a good evening. Worst case, I might try letting her fall asleep in our bed and carrying her up later. I will try and be more patient and loving through this... I hope I can make it through with my sanity! smile

Anyway, thank you again for all your helpful thoughts.

OP’s posts: |
SofiaAmes Mon 09-Jul-12 03:01:37

good luck with it...I'm sorry if I sounded harsh in my post....I know exactly how exhausted and fed up you must feel. It really does get better. Another thing that I found very helpful, was to give dd extra cuddles and kisses at all times, not just at bedtime. She just needs more than ds, or it seems, most kids. And it's so easy to give her the extra cuddles and it really seems to dissipate all sorts of behavior (not just the frightened at night stuff). I spent a lot of time and money with a therapist (I am in Los Angeles after all) getting advice and it really did make a difference, and I like to think that if I managed to get a handle on it when she was 7, then I might just possibly survive her teenage years. And if I hadn't coped with 7, no way was I going to manage 13!

TheBigMansWife Wed 09-Jan-19 21:38:16

My son is 7 and recently started to go through a similar phase,
classical music soothes him to sleep.

MumUnderTheMoon Thu 10-Jan-19 11:40:54

You reassured her that wwIII won't happen and I think that most kids know that not even mummy can guarantee that so it may not have been reassuring at all. "What if ...?" Thoughts can be very frightening and are very common it's just that most people can dismiss them quickly and move on maybe your dd is struggling with this. If she says it again ask her what does she think will happen if there was a wwIII and talk about her specific worries with her. It may also be the right time to let her know that we can't control our worries and that it is ok to be worried but that she has to get on in-spite of them. After that you just have to be firm "I know your worried but you still have to go to bed" do not let her come downstairs, just keep putting her back to bed. Also it may help you to encourage her to spend short periods of time by herself during the day so that if she is awake at night she will be used to being alone and won't wake you. Perhaps give her an audio book to turn on when she wakes up then she won't be lonely.

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