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2 year old scared of the dark - how to resolve

(10 Posts)
Corky Thu 30-Dec-04 21:05:31

Hi there, this thread sort of stems off another one I started a few days ago about my dd not sleeping in her new toddler bed. After now trying for the third night, I'm convinced that she has suddenly developed a phobia of going to sleep in the dark and of us leaving her room even with the light on.

The reason why I say this is we've put her in a toddler bed and she seems to want to get in it, but the minute we leave the room she gets out getting very upset. The same happens even with the cot now which we moved into the same room. She had never even attempted to get out before xmas, but she is so scared now when we leave that she launches herself out - hurting herself, so we've had no choice but to resort to the bed as its less of a fall!

The problem now is we can only leave the room once she's fallen asleep to a story and left a small lamp on. For the last 2 nights though she's woken about 11 or 12pm and despite the light, still got upset and got out of bed. This then commences the big battle of getting her back to sleep with more stories. Last night it took my dh 2 hours to get her back to sleep and he had to sleep on the floor to get her off. The problem is that after a few hours sleep, she's not as tired and its even more difficult to get her to sleep even when read a story.

I'll also add that I'm expecting my 2nd baby in 8 weeks so hence the transition into a bed. I'm now paranoid that we'll be knackered before the baby even arrives as we'll be up all the time trying to get dd back to sleep. DH is being extremely supportive though and offering to take responsibility - but I feel so guilty as he has a full time job too.

Anyone got any words of advice on how to deal with this? Sorry to waffle on....

morningpaper Thu 30-Dec-04 21:11:41

What does she say is the problem? My 2 year old has recently started sleeping badly (last couple of weeks) and when I discussed it with her she said she was worried because she couldn't see anything and thought Fr Christmas was going to wake her up. ?!?! We came to a compromise that she could have a nightlight (moonlight plug thing) in at night. It seems to have improved things.

Corky Thu 30-Dec-04 21:15:25

She doesn't say anything specific as we ask her, just that she doesn't want to go to sleep and that she is scared. She has also dropped her lunchtime sleep as of xmas day so is very much ready for bed at the usual 7pm. However, I don't think that xmas has helped much as we stayed at various families houses for a few days and she had to sleep in different rooms and we had a lot of problems getting her to sleep after all the excitement of presents and seeing grandparents etc.

morningpaper Thu 30-Dec-04 21:19:22

Aw poor lamb. Any idea what she is scared about?

We've got a fish/aquarium toy which we leave on in DD's room when she goes to sleep. It plays various quiet tunes which she often makes up words to. It's a nice distraction. She can turn it on in the night if she wants. Perhaps you could look for something similar that would distract her?

Perhaps you could try a small plug nightlight thing? It casts quite a light in the night-time.

Corky Thu 30-Dec-04 21:25:01

I like the sound of the musical toy, as long as its not something likely to wake them up more. As for a light, we've been leaving her small lamp on and she's still frightened - of what I wish I knew!

morningpaper Thu 30-Dec-04 22:05:00

Here's the one we have. Maybe you could buy it with her as a special night-time toy. It lights up gently too. DD has had it since she was born but only really liked it fairly recently. She might find it exciting for the first few nights but it's worth a try I reckon.

Corky Thu 30-Dec-04 22:32:11

Thanks for this, I'll take a look! Anything is worth a try.

bakedpotatohoho Thu 30-Dec-04 22:52:46

corky, our no2 is due in a month so i understand just how urgently you want to sort this out. with that in mind, i'd do anything you can ASAP to get her out of the habit of expecting to be read to sleep.
yes, fear of the dark is something you can understand and help her through. but you really can't get stuck with fostering a new bad sleep habit at this point. and it sounds a little as if this is what she is engineering. (i'm sure not consciously, but YKWIM... you're bound to be extra-sensiitive to her feelings at the moment, apprehensive about things changing for her, and perhaps she senses that in the way that smart children do and is seeing how far she can push it.)
i suppose the 'little angels' approach would be to withdraw gradually over a period of days. at bedtime, read story, then stop, sit on the bed, no eye contact or talking, initially waiting till she goes to sleep, then on successive nights sit on the floor, on a chair by the door, and leave the room off earlier and earlier till you're leaving her after the story, wide awake. and don't back down or show her you're wobbly.
here are a few other wild and random thoughts.
stick her into a grobag so she's not so mobile. perhaps remove the cot from the room so it's not an option for either of you.
get her to choose a nightlight herself.
starcharts (ditto with choosing stickers etc) for staying in bed.
i always put dd to bed with a book. when we started this, around the time she got scared of the dark, i presented it as a big concession. she loved that. i don't think she opens it after i leave the room -- it's pretty dim with the nightlight on -- but perhaps it makes her feel she has some options!
oh and i always promise i'll come back and check on her when she's asleep.

bakedpotatohoho Thu 30-Dec-04 23:00:28

oh, and with the 11pm waking, i'd try not to engage with her at all. warn her about this at bedtime (the first one). say stories are for bedtime, not for the middle of the night.

so i would treat 11pm entirely differently. no talking, no negotiating, just back to bed, leave the room. i'm sure she won't take it calmly and you may have a few bad nights but anything else and you'll be reinforcing it as OK behaviour. look at it like this. at the moment, from her POV, it's worth making a fuss, she's getting loads of time and attention. if nothing much happens, it won't be worth the hassle.

Minstrel Thu 30-Dec-04 23:15:55

I agree with everything Baked Pot has said. My dd is 6 and still has a nightlight which is in the shape of 1/2 moon, she chose it herself and loves it. My ds (1) has a motor car, chosen by DD!! I would say if you go for the night light to make sure you buy a spare. DD dropped her first one on holiday abroad and it fell onto the tiles on the floor and broke abit off, but luckily still worked!! We now keep a spare one in the pocket of a travel bag we take on holiday just in case we forget!! Good Luck

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