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11 yr old scared to go to bed or be upstairs alone...!

(40 Posts)
bittersweet Sun 03-Jan-10 22:45:06

Have loved dipping in to mumsnet now and then over the years, but have never started a thread til now... have ds aged 11 and 2 dds aged 8 and 5.

Does anyone else have experience of this - my 11 yr old ds has become increasingly reluctant/ scared over the past 2 years to go to bed and/ or stay in bed in the evening while dh and I are downstairs.

One of us will often take him up at about 9pm and see him into bed. He then reads or lies awake til we go up to bed, during which time he calls down to us every 10 minutes or so to ask when we are coming up. He will not allow himself to go to sleep til we are upstairs too. He often falls asleep within seconds of us coming up.

If we don't see him into bed, he will hang around on the stairs or landing (hoping we don't notice)waiting for us to come up, or he'll make some excuse to come and ask/tell us something to delay going up.

Once asleep, he sleeps well, but I am worried that he's not getting enough sleep (rarely more than 8 hours a night), but my main worry is that he is not feeling happy/confident enough in his own house. He is becoming more scared of sleeping at his grandma's house and he wouldn't want to go to a sleepover at a schoolfriend's.

He's a keen reader and has good imagination. He watches/plays the usual TV/DVDs/playstation for his age, and is happy/sociable/ outgoing during the day. Have tried to talk to him about it, but he just says that he doesn't want to be alone upstairs (his sleeping sisters in the next room don't count!).

Sorry for going on, have tried to be brief. Has anyone got any thoughts on this? I'd be really grateful.

thisisyesterday Mon 04-Jan-10 20:55:49

i can only comment from my own experience, which may be way off mark but i'll tel lanyway.

i used to be just like him. i was always fairly nervous as a child, and the more i found out about bad things happening to people and things like that the more scared I used to get.
i used to lie awake thinking there was a man in my cupboard and that when my parents were in bed he'd come out and kill me. i was too scared to even call out to them!
i wouldn't go upstairs on my own to the toilet or anything.

so, i guess if it were me i'd be doing whatever needs doing to get him to talk to you about what is worrying him. is he easy to talk to? will he open up to you?
would you consider staying upstairs for a bit, even if just out on the landing with a book, while he falls asleep?

bittersweet Mon 04-Jan-10 22:34:01

I felt scared just reading that! When did you stop feeling like that?

We do sometimes pretend to go to bed at 9pm, just so that we're upstairs and he can feel at ease, then once he's asleep, we'll come back down.

He does talk to me sometimes, but never really says particular details of what scares him, just that he doesn't want to be on his own.

thisisyesterday Tue 05-Jan-10 18:03:55

i dunno when it stopped really, i guess by the time I was maybe 13/14 I was not so scared of a man being in my cupboard, maybe because I was then old enough to realise that actually, it was highly unlikely!!!

Until I moved in with dp though I always kept the windows to my room shut all the time, jumped into bed so nothing could grab my foot, and slept with the duvet touching the bed all the way round me!!!!

I am prone to anxiety and stuff, and tbh I don't think my parents really realised anything was up, so never talked to me. Perhaps if they had and i'd been reassured it wouldn't have gone on so long.

I wonder if for your son it is just a general growing up, having more responsibility and being increasingly aware of the "dangers" that are out there. so not necessarily a specific thing but just a nervous feeling that is worrying him?

TheEarthIsFlat Tue 05-Jan-10 18:33:13

I used to be terrified of the dark & couldn't get to sleep unless I knew other people were around. Used to have a bedside lamp on, the hall light on & my bedroom door open so I could escape (still don't know what from, but it was very real at the time). Would creep out and sit in the hallway sometimes (we lived in a bungalow). Mine was partly due to reading adult ghost stories and an overactive imagination.

Even now I sometimes get scared. Dp won't let me have a light on as it means he can't get to sleep so I either go and sleep on the sofa, or listen to a radio with an ear-piece. Being able to make me hear a voice makes me feel less scared.

bittersweet Tue 05-Jan-10 22:08:06

I'm definitely trying to be more reassuring to him, and not cross about it (though I feel frustrated and annoyed with him at times), and have to stop myself from telling him not to be silly.

We have the landing light on at night (I quite like that too actually) and ds likes the door wide open too so he can see through the crack in the door (at the end of his bed).

It does help to hear your memories of this sort of thing - I guess ds will grow out of it ...

thisisyesterday Tue 05-Jan-10 22:15:17

yeah i can remember my mum getting cross with me and refusing to go upstairs with me to the loo (can totally understand that now though!) and just thinking "why won't she just do this for me?"

he will grow out of it, you're right. and i'd wager he'll get past it quicker knowing that you're there for him and looking after him

SleighGirl Tue 05-Jan-10 22:17:39

would he be happier sharing with the dds?

releasethehounds Tue 05-Jan-10 22:20:08

You're not alone - I'm sitting here now still waiting for DD1 (11) to go to sleep. DH and I can't even go into our own bedroom until she's asleep. This problem has been really severe for over 2 years now (I have posted threads about it in another name) and I wish I could give you some advice.

We have literally tried everything to try to understand why DD is so scared to be upstairs alone. She often doesn't sleep until after midnight (she doesn't seem to need much sleep anyway) and even then, she usually ends up in our bed at about 4 am!

It's very very upsetting and frustrating for all concerned and nobody who hasn't experienced this can understand the levels it can take you to. DD has had counselling, trial at a sleep clinic at hospital, short-term drugs, everything. DH and I are now resigned to just waiting until she hopefully grows out of it, but it affects our relationship at times as we don't really get any time together. We have no idea why she has this problem - she has a very secure family life, does well at school and has many friends.

I hope someone brilliant comes along with suggestions. I don't mean to sound negative - DD is an acute case of phobia (so we are told) and your DS may well move on from this in a few weeks.

Sending my best wishes, and please don't hesitate to contact me if you ever need to sound off to someone who knows how you feel!

thornrose Tue 05-Jan-10 22:24:54

My dd is 10 and hates going to bed alone. We live in a flat and her bedroom is next to the living room but she's still scared. At the moment I am reassuring her through the wall every 5/10 minutes about every sound. Radiators clicking, neighbours moving around etc etc.
We talk a lot about the chances of bad things happening. We check under the bed and in the wardrobe together. I make sure she has a night light she can switch on and off herself.
Lately I let her listen to audio books on her Ipod which helps a bit.

mumonthenet Tue 05-Jan-10 22:29:30

yep, I agree, he will grow out of it.

You are right to not tell him he's silly. You can be sure that he hates being scared(and is probably too embarrassed to talk to you about it).

I think you need to be totally cool about it, just tell him calmly that's fine if he feels nervous, that many kids feel the same, and that he will grow out of it no problem.

Do anything you can to make him more comfortable about bedtime. It's not very practical for you to go to bed at the same time as him but is there anything else you could do? Without making an obviously big deal out of it.

Could he share with his sisters for a few months?

Has he got nightlights?

Would a radio or calm stories on a cd help?

A torch?

My dd went through a phase of being afraid of the dark and too scared to go to the bathroom in the evening - when we were all still awake. I went with her everytime (pretending I didn't mind - while inside I was seething with impatience) She's now 14 and grown out of it...but still likes her bedroom door propped open.

thornrose Tue 05-Jan-10 22:33:02

grinat seething with impatience inside. I'm doing that as we speak as I use my best calm voice to yell reassure through the wall!!

mumonthenet Tue 05-Jan-10 22:35:48

keep it up thornrose! deep breaths!

Is she banging on the wall for her reassurance or are you just keeping up a general running commentary anyway?

bittersweet Tue 05-Jan-10 22:36:30

Oh I know, when he calls out to ask me to take him to the loo in the evening/night, I really have to bite my tongue, sometimes don't.

In answer to SleighGirl, the 3 of them wouldn't all want to sleep in the same room at home, but when they go to my mum's for the night, ds does ask to sleep with his sisters.

Releasethehounds - you have really got it tough. Do you have to stay in dd's room all evening until she's asleep?. Will she go to friend's or grandparents' houses for sleepovers I wonder?

It is strange isn't it, when they are happy during the day, doing ok at school, have friends etc, that come bedtime, they are plagued with this insecurity.

thisisyesterday Tue 05-Jan-10 22:37:19

yes actually, i wonder, if you talk to hjim about it, whether he could come up with anything that may help at all?

ie, a torch by bed, you coming and checking on him every few minutes (you could then extend this time very gradually until he doesn't need it any more), um, a special charm/token/toy that keeps bad things away??

thornrose Tue 05-Jan-10 22:40:45

I opted for the general running commentary this evening. I just said vey loudly "that's the neighbours door creaking" and she said "oh mummy I was just drifting off to sleep".

mumonthenet Tue 05-Jan-10 22:45:55

I think that you could be very creative and try to find out what he would like. It could be very worthwhile.

Could you not bung one of his sisters in with him? You'd prob have to find a way to sell it as some kind of treat to the dd in question.

I also think it's vitally important to tell your ds in a chatty casual way that you know it's a pain for him to be nervous at bedtime - but it's very normal and he'll grow out of it.

DD used to hate herself for being frightened which almost frightened her more iyswim. I'm convinced that by telling her it was a normal, rather inconvenient phase - I gave her some confidence back. And then she could build on that confidence when she was ready.

I realise that releasethehounds problem is much harder to deal with. I hope you get some solutions soon rth - you're having a tough time!

mumonthenet Tue 05-Jan-10 22:48:51

ok, thornrose, sounds like tomorrow night you could cut it down to the occasional passing comment.

mumonthenet Tue 05-Jan-10 22:49:12


oblong Tue 05-Jan-10 22:49:20

Hi Bittersweet - my 11 year old is very similar. She's always reluctant to go up (or down) stairs if it's dark and will frequently come down to check where I am. She has also gone off sleepovers and is generally pretty anxious about going to unfamiliar places without me.

She also reads a lot, writes stories and has a very active imagination and tbh has always been a bit clingy.

I figure that whilst it can be waring and it's a shame that sometimes she'd rather miss out on the fun than take a risk, she's not going to be like this when she's eighteen so we should be as understanding as we can. Would it help if he fell asleep in your bed and you moved him when you went up or put more lights on for instance?

thornrose Tue 05-Jan-10 22:58:24

Yep, got a bit carried away, too busy mumsnetting to concentrate wink

bittersweet Tue 05-Jan-10 23:02:42

Yes, your dd does sound similar Oblong. From reading all the replies, i am realising that dh and i must just "go with it" and reassure, encourage him etc as much as poss. In fact, I have just had that sort of chat with ds (when he came down to ask when we were coming to bed!)and asked what would help him feel more at ease going to bed. He said if we were to always go up with him, wait while he cleans teeth, gets his books ready and climbs into bed. We do do this sometimes, not every night.

Like you say, they aren't going to be like this at 18!

Perhaps we should look again at the option of dd sharing rooms for a while

luckyblackcat Tue 05-Jan-10 23:08:47

I have an unread copy of 'what to do when you dread you bed' and one other anxiety based book if anyone wants to cat me.

I've 'solved' it by putting my two into bunk beds in DS' room (5) and DD (10) still has her own room for everything else but sleeping - she still has a bed in there in case she fancies it.

But she still regularly asks to sleep in bed with me!

releasethehounds Wed 06-Jan-10 21:38:17

Hi again bittersweet - I hope I wasn't too negative last night - some nights are worse than others! In answer to your question I do have to stay with DD until she falls asleep. She has an anteroom next to her bedroom (which she still shares with DD2 by choice) where I have a desk, chair and laptop, which is why you generally find me on MN in the evening! Sometimes it only takes an hour or so, but often it's 2 or 3 or more - that's when we start to lose it!

Occasionally we ask my parents to have the DDs overnight as it's the only way we can guarantee an evening together and a good night's sleep. Also, it puts me off staying out late with the kids because I know I won't be able to just put them to bed and leave them when we get back.

When she stays at my parents' house she sleeps with my mom therefore no problem and when she has sleepovers she obviously has the friend in the same room, so again, no problem.

So far DD2 (6) is great at going to bed and we can just read her a story, kiss her goodnight and that's it. I just hope she doesn't start getting any ideas from DD1 - 2 like that would send me over the edge.

People have made some good suggestions on this thread - let us know if any help.

ironingisboring Wed 07-Apr-10 13:51:25

Just reading your posts as am at wits end with my son who is 6.5 yrs - he has always struggled to go to sleep but has started to come downstairs more or less as soon as we leave him. He is scared to death of being on his own and also wakes in the night. He says he feels sick and cries. We have tried lots of things, talking to him - reassurance about nothing being in his room, lights on in and outside room, glowing stars on the ceiling - I just think he has an overactive imagination and can't shut off and when he wakes he can't get back to sleep - we have more recently tried to have a star reward chart - and so as not to make a big thing of it I have inlcuded other things on there like cleaning teath, reading his school books etc, and if he stays in bed for a whole week he gets a special surprise. I am worried he isn't getting enough sleep, he also struggles with carrying out insutructions - not sure if I am starting to be paranoid but was wondering if the sleep and behaviour is something like a mild form of ADHD - I really don't want him to be labelled so am desperate for ideas. Have also been wondering (although DH would completely disagree) whether it would be worthwhile putting a mattress on the floor next to my bed for a while so he could just come in if he needed to??? Any thoughts/ideas - how have others got on since they posted???

Ta. x

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