to sleep, perchance to . . . oh crap.
August 14, 2006 4:03 AM   Subscribe

We are on vacation for another 10 days, and my five-year-old daughter wants to sleep in our bed. We gave in once, and now she whines and cries until she wakes up her little sister. We are going insane.

A couple of weeks ago she kept telling us she was "scared" after older brother told her a spooky story. She normally sleeps with a night light. So for a week or two we have had to cajol/threaten her to get her to sleep, and made the mistake a couple of times of letting her sleep in the same bed with us.

Now we are at my in-laws, and we let her sleep on the floor in a sleeping bag, with a flashlight. The batteries died, and so she starts crying and wants to sleep between us.

The problem is that it is killing our sleep and diminishing our functionality during the day. When we return home we will cheerfully lock her in her room, but until then we are trying to figure out how to get her to sleep at night.

Oh, and we go camping for five days tomorrow.
posted by craniac to Human Relations (13 answers total)
Erm. New batteries? A low power nighlight? One of those solar lamps that people have in their gardens? A cheap LED based clock that would provide a little light?
posted by handee at 4:19 AM on August 14, 2006

I had a period like this when I was a little girl. My mom told me that if I slept in my own bed for a whole week, she'd give me a glow worm. I did. How could I resist? And by the time the week was over, my habit had been changed. It sounds ugly to use a bribe like that, but do with this information what you will.
posted by leapingsheep at 4:23 AM on August 14, 2006

Is it a joke, or do you really mean you'll lock her in?
posted by A189Nut at 4:46 AM on August 14, 2006

Glow sticks? They don't need batteries, and they're neat (not just for ravers).
posted by timetoevolve at 5:13 AM on August 14, 2006

Put the younger sister asleep in another room. Then let the older sister whine/cry it out until she falls asleep. Then move the younger sister back. A glowstick is also a good idea.

You're not going to bed at the same time are you? Most kids sleep like rocks. Let her fall asleep in your bed, then when you go to sleep, move her to the floor.
posted by mikepop at 5:44 AM on August 14, 2006

My little kids always slept in a sleeping bag inside a mini pop-up tent. It seemed to make them feel like they had their own special room. I also third or fourth the glowsticks. Kids love them.
posted by rintj at 6:21 AM on August 14, 2006

Tap lights are good too. I got the regular ones for my sons, but these cool tap lights supposedly can be set to turn off after a certain amount of time (thus saving batteries)...(Glowsticks are awesome, but watch out, if you have a kid who puts things in their mouth. My four year old knows now, that the liquid, though not technically poisonous, tastes very yucky!)
posted by coevals at 6:35 AM on August 14, 2006

Is it the sleeping in the same bed with you that is killing you or the crying? If it is the crying, how about just letting her sleep with you? We often have bizarre sleeping arrangements with our 5-year-old when we are on vacation, and we just make sure to spin it as a "vacation-only" treat. It takes a day or two when we get back to get her to sleep in her own bed without complaint, but that's the case whenever her sleeping patterns are adjusted.

Our daughter has no siblings, though, so there may be rivalry/me-too-ism issues that I've not considered fully here.
posted by Rock Steady at 6:50 AM on August 14, 2006

I don't know where you are vacationing, but, if there's one nearby, take her to Build-a-Bear and let her build her very own cuddle-buddy for bedtime. Barring that, a pre-made bear might help.
posted by Thorzdad at 8:30 AM on August 14, 2006

Response by poster: It is the waking up and crying at three a.m. while she negotiates new sleeping arrangements that is killing us. Note the time of the original post.
posted by craniac at 8:53 AM on August 14, 2006

Best answer: Little kids' fears can be quite overwhelming, and stress plus darkness can reallly exacerbate them - when it's dark she can only see what's in her imagination, she can't see the reality of the world around her. Imagine yourself, alone against the scariest thing you've ever faced - and then further imagine that the only thing you know that can protect you is failing. IT'S A NIGHTMARE!!!!

Talk with her when she's (and you all) are fully awake. Ask her what she's frightened of and listen carefully. She doesn't have the capacity to tell you, exactly, so you may want to ask her to draw pictures to show you the thing that she's worried about.

You need to enlist her in fighting against the monster/thing that is threatening her. It does no good to tell her that nothing's there - every sense in her body is telling her DANGER DANGER!!! Once you have an idea of what she's afraid of, the two of you can strategize together about what would frighten that monster - all monsters have weak points in addition to their scary bits. Work with her, be her ally in this intense battle to help her regain control over the monster to turn the tables and make IT afraid.

You may find that she's able to do a bit, but then gets overwhelmed with anxiety. This is totally normal anytime you're facing a fear. Though you hope it'll go away altogether, it might be a long drawn out battle, and she needs praise for every little step she's able to take in defeating the fear monster. Hang in there with her, but let her know that, though you're her friend here, that this is a battle that only she can win, as it's a fight with something that comes from her imagination.
posted by jasper411 at 10:33 AM on August 14, 2006 [1 favorite]

Best answer: oh dude. I had this problem when I was a kid. My parents ended up having to *lock* their bedroom door, because i would sneak in (if they found out I was in there, they'd kick me out) and hide on the floor of their bedroom -- they were worried they'd trample me while going to the bathroom in the middle of the night. When they started locking their door, I'd huddle up against it at night.

the only thing that worked? bribes. I got a little star every night I stayed in bed, and I think each of those was worth, like, a nickel, or like, some special privelege.

Logic, extra "defenses" (whistles, nightlights) and psychiatrists had no effect at all.
posted by fishfucker at 11:32 AM on August 14, 2006

oh, they only bribed me for a couple weeks, I think, and then I was fine.
posted by fishfucker at 11:32 AM on August 14, 2006

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