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Help...Terrified two yr old

(17 Posts)
LiamsMum Tue 29-Oct-02 11:06:25

I don't know if anyone can help me... my 2 yr old has always gone to bed at night with no problems, except for the last couple of weeks. After I put him to bed and leave his room, he proceeds to scream and scream, as if he's terrified. I've tried leaving him to cry for 5 or 10 minutes but he screams out "Mummy, Mummy" over and over, and by the sound of his voice, something is really disturbing him. I've tried leaving his door open to let the light in, and I've also tried putting a night light in his room, to no avail. Apart from any sudden fears he may have developed, I can't think what is causing this. The last couple of nights I have resorted to giving him his dummy to go to sleep, because he just becomes hysterical if I let it go on for too long. (I put him to bed at 8 o'clock tonight and at 9 o'clock he was still awake). He's never needed the dummy to go to sleep before and I certainly don't want it to become a habit now, so I really don't know what to do, because nothing else seems to work. If I thought it was just a whining/overtired cry I would use controlled crying (which worked really well when he was younger), but he sounds terrified and I don't feel I can leave him crying for too long like that. Can anyone think of what to do? I would really appreciate some advice.

LiamsMum Tue 29-Oct-02 11:25:10

I forgot to mention that I have also tried giving him toys/stuffed animals to sleep with, but that hasn't worked either..

JaneyT Tue 29-Oct-02 11:46:06

My dd1, now 2.9 went through a similar thing earlier this year.

Leaving the door open and a light on the landing helped at the time - and we still do this. But the crying turned out to be caused by a dream she had had about a barking dog next door - then this made her scared on subsequent nights - lasting for about 2 months in total.

Maybe something similar has upset your son ?

LiamsMum Tue 29-Oct-02 12:10:47

Possibly JaneyT, but I just don't know what. He doesn't like insects (spiders & beetles in particular) and he has a fit if one comes near him. But the insect fear is one that he's had for a long time now, and it's never disturbed his sleep before. Apart from that, I don't know.. all I can think of is that there are a couple of episodes of Thomas the Tank Engine (of all things!!!), where he seems to be a bit scared of the characters in it. He loves Thomas but I'm thinking of banning it for a while.. as you can see I'm racking my brains as to the cause of this.

Bozza Tue 29-Oct-02 12:12:44

Liamsmum - how vocal is he? Can you ask him what's bothering him? Is he dreaming? Are there strange shadows?

LiamsMum Tue 29-Oct-02 12:21:36

Bozza - he says a lot of words and can string a few small sentences together, but it's still hard to tell what he's on about sometimes. All he says is "scared", but I don't know what he's scared of. I've tried reassuring him but it's hard when he can't really tell me what's frightening him. His room is dark except for a bit of light coming under his door, and from what I can tell, there's nothing in there that looks scary. I don't think it's the dark that's worrying him, because putting a light in his room hasn't helped. AARGGHHH! Wish I knew.

Bozza Tue 29-Oct-02 12:27:25

Its hard isn't it? You could try questioning him but you run the risk of putting words into his mouth - or even worse introducing new fears. I know things have been a bit unsettled in your home life recently (the death of your Dh's ex etc) - you don't think any of this has filtered through to him on any level do you? Or that he has picked up on vibes, tensions etc?

threeangels Tue 29-Oct-02 14:12:43

Hi LiamsMum,

Do you think some soothing music before bed might help. They have great toddler lullabuy tapes for a 2 yr old that you can buy. Hope this helps.

winnie1 Tue 29-Oct-02 15:45:24

LIamsmum, we have gone through something very similar with our two year old recently. It is heartbreaking and you have my sympathies. Since controlled crying at the age of 10 months our little boy had gone to bed with no problem ever since, usually around 7 pm. A couple of weeks ago my husband and I were spending four hours a night going back and forth and trying everything; music, lights, door open, the only thing that seemed to work was our being at his side and although he would seem virtually asleep the moment the one or other of us would tiptoe out of his room he would begin to cry hysterically. I became convinced he was disturbed by something but could find no reason what so ever. As this would go on until our bedtime and he would not settle even in our bed we became desperate. As hard as it has been after nights of pampering him we started being tough. We went back to him regularly., increasing the time between, but we always put him back to bed and were firm about his not getting out of bed. After three evenings it started to work and although he needs more time to settle than he did before... six stories instead of two he is settling. We have also found that cutting his day time sleep down has helped as has going out of our way to exhaust him - not easy as he is a very active boy who seems to have endless energy. HTH, good luck, Winnie x

JaneyT Tue 29-Oct-02 16:06:25

Agree totally with Winnie - we were quite firm evetually with our dd, and after 2mns of her sleeping in our bed 3xs a week, I told her that she wasn't coming in our bed anymore - seems harsh but it did the trick.

Also stopped her afternoon nap, and now she goes to bed virtually asleep most nights, but if she doesn't I do have to read more stories to settle her. She does wake in the night now, but I just go in to see her and settle her down, even read to her again - whatever the time - but I've never let her get out of her cot!

ejanes Thu 31-Oct-02 13:58:58

Liamsmum - i thought of you last night when i was reading my ds his bed time story (the poer of the internet!!) - i was reading him Mr Jelly. he is 2 1/2 yrs, i'm not sure if your ds is too young to understand but in the Mr Jelly story he gets scared of everything and turns to jelly, then he learns to count to 10 every time he gets scared and then the scary thing is gone. my ds (surprisingly) understood the theory and we did it a couple of times at pictures of monsters etc - could reading Mr Jelly to him help?

Rhubarb Thu 31-Oct-02 15:13:43

In the words of Peter Kay "It's not the monsters in the wardrobe you should be scared of, it's the burglars shinning up the drainpipes to get in!" Thought that might cheer you all up!

LIZS Thu 31-Oct-02 19:42:03

Our ds went through a stage at about 3 yrs of waking screaming at night. At one point we were in a hotel and he woke in the middle of the night pointing hysterically at something in the corner. The curtains weren't fully drawn and we think he was frightened by the shadows from the trees outside. In the morning he didn't recall it at all. He also got scared one day of the shadow cast by a photoframe from an unusual angle.

Look at the room from your son's perspective . Are there any unusual shadows cast or something silhouetted which he could be misinterpreting especially if he is tired. When we moved we found ds settled better with a low wattage side lamp by his bed (Ikea do some kids designs).



Gilli Thu 31-Oct-02 22:10:51

Hope this helps. children often go through this phase between 2 and 21/2. It's scary to hear their fear, and very easy to feel apprehensive yourself, which they then pick up on. Different things work for different children, so its just a question of trying various methods. Being firm may work, being calm and cuddling him may also help. Try putting him to bed much earlier: he may be overtired and overstimulated by the time you need him to wind down.

LiamsMum Thu 31-Oct-02 23:47:03

Thanks Rhubarb comforting thought.

Well he's been better the last couple of nights, I bought him a tiny little torch which I let him keep in bed with him. It worked the first night, but then the second night he started to cry again when I left the room, so eventually I took a (sort of) firm approach - I held his hands down against his chest and said "There's nothing to be frightened of, you have a nice room with some lovely toys in it. Mummy and Daddy have to go to sleep too, just like Liam. We go to sleep in our own bed, just like you. Now go to sleep and I'll see you in the morning." He just smiled at me and was quiet after I left, so I am hoping he will be ok now - I might have to keep reassuring him for a while.

I don't think it's overtiredness because he still sleeps for 2 hours during the day, and I'm sure he's tired when I put him to bed at night because he's usually rubbing his eyes and yawning. I think it's either some kind of fear or separation thing that's causing it, but I just don't know what exactly. Thanks everyone for your suggestions, it's good to at least know that other children go through it too. Ejanes I might try the Mr Jelly book - thanks for that.

honeybunny Sun 03-Nov-02 15:24:50

Liamsmum-just been through something v similar with ds1 (turned 2 last week). He was bothered by the cupboards in his room (a loft conversion, so his cupboards are the attic). We used to check them before bedtime, and as they have child locks on, I could persuade him that nothing could come in or out. We found some of that shiny celebration confetti that comes in cards on the floor in one of the cupboards, and I told him they were special magic pieces. We ceremoniously stuck some on his bedroom door, one on each cupboard door and a couple on his bed (he did all the gluing and sticking!!).

Now at bedtime, we avoid all potentially scarey stories (Room on the Broom!!), spend at least 30mins reading quietly, ds2 tucked up in bed by this time, check the shiny stars/guitars and trumpets!! and ds1 has been fine ever since. My SIL used to have a magic spray (lemon room scent) which would ward off any bad things, which was ceremoniously sprayed every evening, which worked great for her dd1 at a similar age.

I've read that its best not to avoid the issue of scarey things by saying they don't exist, cos for our kiddies they obviously do at this age. But find a way of persuading them that everything is ok with visual/real stuff.


Lollypop Sun 03-Nov-02 20:28:05

DD aged 2.5 is going through a really scred patch, pitty it has coincided with fireworks. For the past 2 nights we haven't got her to sleep until 10.30pm. I cannot wait until the 5th Nov is past. Fireworks should be banned apart from licensed event.

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