Wants to Sleep with Parents – School-Aged Children

While people know that babies and toddlers often want to sleep in their parents’ bed, they may not realize that this desire can also occur in school age children. Children aged six to twelve may refuse to sleep in their own rooms for a variety of reasons. Knowing WHY a child wants to sleep with his or her parents can help guide appropriate interventions.

If your child insists on sleeping in YOUR bed, consider the following:

Fears and Anxiety
Many children have anxiety and fears that cause them to seek parental comfort in the night. For instance, a child may be afraid of the dark (ghosts, monsters and other unnamed demons). Or, a child may be afraid of robbers or other night-time invaders. Some children have had a traumatic experience that leaves them feeling afraid and vulnerable. Some children have separation anxiety – a type of anxiety whose main feature is fear of being separated from caregivers or significant others. Some children have an anxiety disorder that causes them to feel high degrees of anxiety for no particular reason. Many types of anxiety become more intense when a person is alone and they also worsen when a person is in the dark and when the person is unoccupied – all of the conditions that occur when a person is in bed at night!

If fearfulness or anxiety seems to be the culprit, you can try “self-help” techniques with your child first. For instance, you can give your child Bach Flower Remedies that address the particular type of fear.These harmless, water-based preparations are added to a bit of water, milk, chocolate milk, tea, juice or other liquid 4 times a day until the fear has disappeared. Mimulus helps specific fears like fears of robbers and also separation anxiety. Aspen addresses vague fears such as fears of the dark. Rescue Remedy addresses fears that come from a traumatic incident as well as overwhelming terror of being alone in one’s room, Rock Rose may help panic that seems to be occurring for no known reason. Bach Flower Remedies are available in health food stores. Instructions for their preparation are available on this site (see article called Bach Flower Remedies).

There are also practical, behavioral interventions that can be used. For example, allowing a frightened child to sleep with the light is a method that may help. Eventually the child will learn to sleep with the lights off. Unless the child has a sleeping disorder, there is no need to be concerned about the short-term use of this strategy. Similarly, the door of the room can remain opened. Also it’s fine to put on some relaxing (and distracting!) music or white noise or even a CD with relaxation strategies.

Another technique that works very well on fears is EFT – Emotional Freedom Technique. This is a short sequence of acupressure that involves tapping on one’s own body at 8 different points. There are numerous online video clips demonstrating the technique for both adults and children. There are also many books on the subject. and lots of mental health professionals who use EFT in their practice, both as a treatment modality and an educational tool.

Meditation, breathing, visualization and many other easy and powerful self-help techniques are available for the self-help reduction of anxious feelings. Look for a mental health professional who can teach both you and your child how to use these strategies. Meanwhile, be sure to respond to your child’s fears compassionately. Use Emotional Coaching (the naming and accepting of feelings) to knowledge and welcome anxious feelings; stay away from mockery, criticism, lectures and reprimands. Not only will these do absolutely nothing to remove the fear, but they will harm the child and your parent-child relationship. On the other hand, compassion and acceptance can soften the fear and help it shift, while building and strengthening the parent-child bond.

If your own efforts to help reduce your child’s fear or anxiety level don’t work, take your child to a child psychologist. A mental health professional will be able to help your child manage fears effectively.

Adjusting to Change
Sometimes children react to change by seeking the comfort of their parent’s bed. When parents have separated or divorced or when one parent has passed away, for instance, many children “move into” their parent’s bedroom. If the family has moved to a new location, this is even more common. Instead of settling into his or her own new room, the child wants to sleep with the parent.

The problem of allowing the child into the single parent’s bed is that the child may be in no rush to leave that bed. In fact, the parent may also be finding comfort in the child’s presence after separation, divorce or death of a spouse. However, the parent often heals with time and develops a new relationship. Eventually the parent will want his or her new partner in that bed and will have to ask the child to remain in his or her own room. Trying to make the change at this juncture can cause the child to deeply resent the new partner.

When the child is having trouble with change, you can use the Bach Flower Remedy called Walnut which helps people adjust to new circumstances more easily. You can also bring comfort tools into the child’s new room – items such as large stuffed animals, CD player for bedtime sleep programs, healing crystals, special blankets or special toys. Be patient; it can take time for the child to make the necessary internal changes.

If these methods aren’t enough to allow the child to feel comfortable in his or her own room after a period of months, however, then seek professional help. This can often bring about the desired change.

Seeking Attention
Sometimes children want more parental contact. This can happen when parents have long working hours or travel a lot or are otherwise physically or emotionally unavailable for the child a lot of the time. It can also happen just because a child is particularly needy of parental attention – this is an inborn characteristic.

If you suspect that your absence is the reason your child wants to be in your bed, see if there is a way to give a few more minutes of quality time each day to your child. If you can’t be there in person, perhaps you can have other types of contact (email, skype or chatting/texting). Or, perhaps you can have more intense quality time when settling the child to bed. Maybe you can make a special time on the weekend to have more intense contact. Sleeping with the child is not healthy for the child’s development and therefore it is NOT a good idea to try to make up for inadequate parenting time by having the child in your bed.

If you suspect that the child is simply needy, consider offering the Bach Flower Remedy called Heather. If the child is both needy and manipulative, try Chicory. Alternatively, speak to a Bach Flower Practitioner for assessment and preparation of an appropriate mixture of remedies to help reduce neediness.

Strong Willed
Sometimes your child just WANTS to sleep in your bed. Firm and consistent rules can be helpful with this kind of youngster. Be careful not to give in to tantrums, whining, pleading or other dramatic behaviors. Make a simple rule: “No sleeping in our room. You have to sleep in your room.” Then stick to it. Use the 2X-Rule of discipline if the child comes to your room after his or her bedtime (see Raise Your Kids without Raising Your Voice by Sarah Chana Radcliffe for detailed instructions on how to use the 2X-Rule and choose negative consequences). Repeat your rule and add a warning the second time the child shows up in your room: “We told you before – no sleeping in our room; you have to sleep in your room. From now on, when you come into our room, such & such consequence will occur.” Apply the consequence if the child shows up in your room a third time.

In addition to (or sometimes even instead of) discipline, you might consider experimenting with the Bach Flower Remedy called Vine This remedy can help reduce stubborn and strong-willed inborn tendencies, helping the child to retain his leadership qualities while becoming more flexible and cooperative with others.

The Needy Parent Test

We all know that children need their parents, online but did you know that some parents NEED their kids too? In fact, some parents need their kids so much that we might call them “needy parents.” Such parents depend on their children to make them feel loved, successful or otherwise happy. The fact is, however, that when children sense their parent needs them in order to be happy, they feel pressured and resentful. Children need independent parents – parents who take responsibility for building their own successful lives. Independent parents give kids the space they need to develop and grow to their own potential and to step into their own adult lives.

Is it possible that YOU are a needy parent? You can find out by asking yourself if the following descriptions pertain to you:

You Desperately Need Your Child to Succeed
How important is it to you that your child succeeds? How would you feel if your child somehow failed or did less than you would be satisfied with? Parents can be over-invested in the outcome of their child’s efforts. Of course, every parent delights in his or her child’s success and happiness, but sometimes a child just doesn’t succeed. Sometimes it’s because a parent can’t tolerate a child’s feelings of disappointment, finding it hard to handle emotional pain. Or, the parent may want the child to be successful in order to be able to brag a bit, to be proud – seeing the child as an extension of him or herself. It’s as if the child’s successes are the parents’ successes and the child’s failures are the parents’ are the parents’ failures. Whatever the reason, if you NEED your child to succeed and can’t tolerate his failure, you may be too needy.

You Need Your Child to Be Around
Some parents need a lot of contact with their child. While mothers and babies are meant to be symbiotic for the first couple of years, they are meant to gradually grow apart more and more until they are two completely separate (but loving) human beings. The ultimate expression of this occurs when the child leaves home to make a life of his or her own. However, some parents need the child even more than the child needs them. There are parents who need their kids to talk to them in depth daily, sharing all the details of their lives. Some parents need their kids to call home frequently whenever the child is out with friends. Some parents need their grown children to visit daily or call several times a day, wanting them to continue sharing the details of their lives well into adulthood. Of course, the desire for closeness also varies between cultural groups with some cultures promoting closer relationships and others promoting more independence or distance. However, if you tend to find very temporary loss of contact with your child painful, you may be too needy.

You Feel Possessive of Your Child
Does it bother you when your child develops close friendships and relationships? Sometimes a parent resents a child’s closeness to another relative – even if that relative is the child’s other parent. Sometimes a child has a special relationship with an aunt or grandparent and the parent feels left out, discarded or insignificant. On the other hand, healthy parents feel secure in their relationship with their child and are happy for the child to have lots of other sources of support, companionship and love. If you feel threatened when your child becomes very close to someone else, you may be too needy.

Your Child Needs You to Do Everything
Parents have a special role in their child’s life, guiding them from totally helpless tiny beings to full grown independent people. Along the way, they must give their child opportunities to develop all sorts of competencies – the ability to cook, make appointments, manage money, drive, travel and do every other task that adult life will require. Step by step, the child takes on more and more independent tasks according to his increasing levels of maturity. However, some parents like to do almost everything for their child at every age – long past the time when the child could actually perform the task by him or herself. This may happen because the parent has no patience for the child’s learning process, or because the parent is a bit too nurturing, or because it makes the parent feel needed and important. Whatever the reason, the child becomes excessively dependent on the parent. If your child is very needy and very dependent, it may be because you are a needy parent!

Your Child Needs You to Solve All His or Her Problems
Kids turn to their parents for help of all kinds – practical help as well as emotional support. The younger the child, the more the youngster depends on the parent. However, as kids grow they normally find other sources of support and assistance in addition to or instead of their parents. If your child absolutely depends on you to solve all of his or her problems, it may be that you have needed to be a bit too involved for too long. Your child’s dependence may be happening because you have needed to be needed – you are a needy parent!

Needing Less
There are plenty of reasons why parents become needy of their children. Sometimes the parent has a dependent nature. Other times the parent has lacked close relationships with his or her own family of origin. Sometimes, it’s just a cultural thing – everyone in the whole community behaves the same way! However, if you want to give your child a bit of breathing space there are some steps you can take. Keep in mind that if you step back, you give room to your child to come forward. Often parents who don’t NEED their kids end up having the best relationships with them. Here are some things that you can do that might help you stop being a needy parent:

  • Get busier with your own life and schedule – take on some new, interesting activities and projects
  • Get more involved with people – attend to your current relationships and build new ones
  • Seek personal counselling
  • Take a course, learn a new skill, start a business – get busy with personal development

In general, the more a parent works on his or her own life, the more balanced his or her relationship will be with the children.

It’s all right if your child is the center of your universe. All children are the apple of their parent’s eye. But having a child doesn’t mean that you stop being your own person. While you’re responsible for your child’s happiness, your children are not responsible for yours. You need to love them for who they are, not because they are the only thing that completes you.

Repetitive Asking (Child Asks Same Questions Over and Over)

Asking questions is a sign of an intelligence. In fact, it is recommended that parents encourage questions, as this gives permission to young curious minds to explore the world and seek understanding. But what if your child has a tendency to ask the same question, or variations of it, over and over and over again? If your child is a pre-schooler, then this behavior is just a normal phase – answer the questions a few more times and move on. If your child is already in grade school, however, this pattern of asking may indicate some sort of anxious feeling or condition. Knowing how to respond is important.

If your child keeps asking the same question over and over, consider the following:

Perhaps Your Child Doesn’t Feel Heard
It’s true for adults, and it’s true for kids as well: if a person feels the need to repeat himself, chances are he or she sensed that the message did not get across. A child can feel that his or her question wasn’t taken seriously, or perhaps the youngster found the answer unsatisfactory in some way. Asking again might be the equivalent of saying, “let me put the question another way,” – except that the child doesn’t bother to rephrase it or elaborate! If you suspect that your answer was somehow lacking, go ahead and give a more complete one now. If there is still a problem, ask your child to expand on his or her question so that you can understand what is really being asked for.

Your Child is Not Really Asking a Question, but Expressing a Feeling
“Why does Dad have to work all the time?!?” At first blush you’d think this question is a mere inquiry regarding why parents need to work. But it’s possible that your child is sad and missing his or her father. In this case, your child needs comfort, not an explanation. If you’re a parent with a child who repeatedly asks specific questions, ask yourself whether it’s possible that there is an emotional need behind the subject being asked. Your child may be confused, lonely or scared, but can’t communicate it directly. He asks a question and gets an answer that doesn’t satisfy him, so he asks again. If you answer the unspoken sentiment, the child will stop asking. For instance, instead of “Grownups have to work many hours in order to make money to support their families” you can say, “You really miss Daddy, don’t you? You wish he could be with us more of the time.” If your emotional coaching “hit the spot” the child will stop asking his question!

Your Child Didn’t Understand Your Answer
Questioning stops when a satisfactory answer is received. Unfortunately, parents sometimes forget that the younger a child is, the more difficulty he or she will have in processing abstract answers. Explaining that rain comes from evaporated water that becomes clouds may be too much for a three year old. You might need to adjust your answers more appropriately to the particular child who is asking. Often, the more simple the answer, the more satisfying it is.

Your Child is Trying to Break Down the Question
Kids have limited attention-spans and therefore may not have registered your whole answer. In addition, some kids have auditory processing deficits that cause them to remember limited amounts of information. For this reason, they may ask the same question again over and over again until they can put together all the information they’re after. If you notice that your child only remembers part of what you’re saying, try to break up your answers into small pieces. For instance, if a child asks “Why does it snow in some countries?” you can start off with a brief reply like, “because in some places it is so cold that the rain freezes into snow crystals.” Then the child can ask a NEW question, like “How cold does it have to be for that to happen?” You can then answer this new question in a few short words. That might lead to the next question, and so on.

Your Child is Expressing Wonderment
Children are in a constant process of discovery. Things that are ordinary for us adults, are profound new things for kids. It’s possible for kids to repeatedly ask a question as an expression of amazement. In other words, the child is confirming a new piece of information over and over again, because he is relishing it! For instance, a young child might say “Why is that tree so tall?” when he doesn’t really want an answer. He might mean “That tree is SO tall!” In which case you can just echo the sentiment. “It is so tall, isn’t it?” These conversations tend to happen with very small children.

Your Child is Expressing Anxiety or Insecurity
Sometimes repetitive questions are a symptom of anxiety or insecurity. For instance, when a child asks, “Is it time to go to school now?” every 10 minutes in the morning, it can be that the youngster is worried about being late. Similarly, if the child asks over and over again, “Are you sure this outfit looks alright?” it can be a sign of insecurity. In OCD (obsessive compulsive disorder), it is common for sufferers to constantly ask the same question or versions of the same question over and over, as they seek to reduce their anxiety. For instance, a child might ask, “No one has touched this bowl, right?” followed by, “The bowl wasn’t touched by anyone, was it?” followed by, “No one touched it all, even a little, right?” and so on. In all cases of anxious questioning, the best intervention is to refuse to answer more than once. Whether the issue is minor anxiety, normal insecurity or OCD-type intense anxiety, when parents refuse to answer more than once, they actually help reduce their child’s insecurity. Anxious questioning is uncomfortable for the child as well as for the parent.  When the child knows that he or she is only getting one answer per question, he or she eventually feels calmer and experiences less need to ask again and again. Parents are not helping anxious children by continuing to answer repetitive questions – in fact, they can actually worsen the child’s anxiety by doing so. When repetitive questions seem to be arising out of worried, insecure or anxious feelings, a professional assessment can be helpful. A psychologist or psychiatrist can let you know whether the child’s behavior will likely disappear on its own or with minimal at-home intervention, or whether professional intervention should be utilized to help reduce underlying feelings of anxiety or to address an actual anxiety disorder.

Self-Care

One important parenting goal is to raise children who are independent. Hopefully, by the end of two decades of effort, parents have been able to teach their child to take care of him or herself in every way. When the young person leaves home, he or she should be able to cook, clean up, pay bills, manage money, do laundry, maintain healthy, hygienic personal standards and take care of him or herself in every other way. Training starts early in life: as soon as a little one can pull on his or her own socks, parents must stand back and give room for trial and error. While it seems easy in principle, in daily life teaching a child habits of self-care can be quite challenging.

In teaching your child to take care of him or herself, consider the following tips:

Baby Steps to Independence
At first, parents do EVERYTHING for a new human being – dressing the infant, grooming the infant, changing the infant’s diapers, washing the infant, carrying the infant, feeding the infant. As the child develops, we hope that he will be able to take over all of these functions. By toddlerhood we are hoping that the child can dress himself, brush his hair with a little parental assistance, toilet himself with minimal assistance, cooperate with the cleaning process (starting to learn to brush his teeth and use soap in the bathtub), walk about and feed himself using cutlery. By the time the child is in school, we expect that he can completely dress himself (perhaps with a little assistance for difficult snaps or buttons), brush his own hair, take care of his bathroom needs independently, brush his teeth, wash his face and bathe himself (with supervision), walk, run, cycle and perhaps skate and swim as well, and eat properly with a knife and fork.

Small Children Enjoy Being Helped by Their Parents
Very young children, and even kids up to 6 or 7 years old, enjoy parental attention and contact. Although they may be able to take their own clothing off or put new clothing on, they thrive on the feeling of being assisted. It reminds them of the “old days” when Mommy and Daddy nurtured them in every way possible, taking care of every tiny need. Now that they’re “big,” parents often abandon them to attend to the new baby in the family or just to do their own things. The young child misses the affectionate and gentle touch of the parent. An adult woman may be very skilled at putting her own coat on, but this doesn’t stop her from feeling oh so special if her special man holds it up for her to slip her sleeves into! In a similar vein, it is fine to assist young children in their dressing and grooming activities even though the child is capable of doing everything on his own. This sort of assistance is just one way of showing love and affection. Don’t do EVERYTHING for the child, however, as this may actually stunt his development. Rather, it’s fine to hand him his second sock as he is putting on his first one or help zipper up his pants after he pulled them on himself. Make sure that the child can, in fact, perform all the tasks adequately by giving him plenty of opportunity to demonstrate competence. Offer assistance in different ways rather than just the same way every time. This helps ensure that the child gets to practice his skills. Unless your child is severely disabled, you have every reason to expect that he’ll be able to perform all acts of self-care during the period of childhood; you needn’t worry that assisting him will somehow prevent his normal development.

Teach Your Child
Actually sit down and show small children how to get dressed, comb hair, brush teeth and so on. It’s fine to repeat aspects of the basic lessons with older kids as well. Some children need verbal instructions and demonstration – with everything broken down into small chunks. Don’t assume your child already knows what she is supposed to do. If the child needs practice, try to make it short and pleasant – even a form of “quality time.” Older kids can learn more indirectly. Bring home library books along with books on all sorts of other interesting subjects. Leave them in the bathroom and around the table. There are books on fashion, style, image and all aspects of personal appearance. If you feel your child needs a gentle hint, leaving such books around can be useful. An uninvolved party is delivering the important information. Similarly, local libraries may carry DVD’s on the subject. For teens who cannot get themselves together nicely, consider a consultation with a personal style consultant. Such a person can show your child how to pick out fashionable clothing, make-up and hair styles. A consultation such as this can give the child necessary confidence as well as skills.

Allow Time and Permit Failure
Whether you are encouraging your toddler to put on his own snow pants or encouraging your teen to get a driver’s licence, you need patience and a tolerance for the learning process. Everyone learns by trial and error. You can get your 5 year-old dressed faster so it’s very tempting to just grab those clothes and dress the child yourself when you’re in a rush to get to work. However, your child really needs the practice in order to become independent. Doing everything for your child not only delays skill-building, but may actually interfere with the child’s normal development.

The solution? Start the morning routine earlier to allow for time for the child to develop skills. Once your child knows how to dress herself, brush her teeth, do her hair, make her bed, get herself some breakfast and make her own lunch – you’ll have a much easier morning! It’s worth the investment of your time up front to help your child learn each skill.

Self-care for older children involves more complex tasks like thoroughly cleaning their own rooms, knowing how to cook healthy meals, knowing how to clean up afterward, knowing how to use the washing machine and dryer and wash clothing by hand, knowing how to get into bed at a decent hour and how to get up independently in the morning. It can also involve knowing how to apply for a job, take public transportation or learn to drive, go to work, purchase personal items, use a credit card and manage money. Of course, teens also need to be responsible for taking regular showers, brushing their teeth and arranging for regular medical and dental check-ups. Children grow into these skills over the second decade of life – but only if their parents encourage them to do so and give them opportunities to spread their wings.

Emphasize the Positive
Look for the “right” part of whatever the child is trying to do. If she is learning to wash her own hair, praise as much as possible before correcting her. For instance, tell her she is using the right amount of shampoo and you like the way she is scrubbing hard. Then, if correction is necessary, keep it short and emphasize what needs to be done, rather than what she is doing wrong. For instance, instead of saying, “you didn’t rinse all the shampoo out of your hair,” try saying, “you need to rinse a little longer to get all the shampoo out of your hair.” Obviously children need lots of guidance before they can become competent at any aspect of self-care. In order not to discourage them, ensure that your positive feedback far outweighs your negative feedback. If a small child has gotten dressed all by himself, it is more important to applaud his independence than to point out that his pants don’t match his shirt. All people go from strength to strength. Letting the child know that he is on the right track helps him to continuously improve.

Use Positive Reinforcement and/or the CleaR Method
Use simple praise to reinforce attention and competency in self-care routines. Trying telling a young child, “I like the way you got dressed all by yourself and so quickly!” To an older child you can offer, “You look really nice today. I really like the way you color-coordinated that outfit.” To a teen, you might quietly utter “Hmmm… someone smells nice!” When a child allows you to help him with a task the he needs help with (i.e. a 5 year-old who can’t tie up his shoe laces), you can praise his cooperative attitude: “Thanks for letting Mommy show you how to do this.” When a youngster struggles and struggles with some difficult article of clothing, finally succeeding at getting it on (or off), you can say, “I like the way you persevered with that! You worked hard and it paid off!”

The CLeaR Method takes praise a step further through commenting and labeling positive behavior and then providing a reward for such behavior. This can be especially important when a child has been having a very hard time learning some aspect of dressing or self-care and especially when the child’s attitude toward the task has been very negative. For instance, if your 5 year-old has been refusing to button his own clothing and finally relents, doing the whole job himself, you can Comment: “You did up all the buttons yourself today!” Then you can offer a Label such as “You’re a good dresser.” Finally, you can offer a reward for the effort he put forth, “You know, since you worked so hard at that today, I think I’ll make your favorite pancakes for breakfast this morning!.” You can say to a child brushing her hair properly, “You did a very nice job brushing your hair this morning (Comment). You’re getting to be very competent at that (Label). Do you need any new hair accessories? I’ll be in the store today (Reward).”

Some Kids Have Problems that Interfere with Self-Care
Ask your pediatrician about normal developmental milestones. If your child is not able to put his shirt on or use a fork properly or perform some other physical act as skillfully as you expect him to by his age, you might consider the possibility of some sort of perceptual deficit , muscle weakness or other problem. Alternatively, problems with following directions may make it difficult for the youngster to perform a complex task that has many steps. Short-attention span can lead to similar difficulties. Similarly, auditory processing difficulties, gross motor skills, immaturity, a mental health diagnosis and a host of other issues can impact on self-care performance. If your child is lagging behind his or her peer group in self-care activities, seek professional assessment. The sooner you intervene to give corrective treatment, the sooner your child can make progress. Young children can learn rapidly. However, if you don’t identify a lag in development, you are not giving your child the chance to receive the help he or she needs.

How to Raise Your Child’s Emotional Intelligence

Emotional Intelligence (E.Q.) refers to “people smarts.” A person with high emotional intelligence understands both himself and others. Not only does the person understand people, but he also knows how to make them feel comfortable – he knows how to bring out the best in others. As a result, the person with high E.Q. experiences more success in relationships and at work. Kids with high E.Q. have better relationships at home and at school, with kids and with adults. Moreover, high E.Q.in children and teens is associated with better academic performance, better physical health, better emotional health and better behavior. In adults, high E.Q. is associated with better performance in every area of life.

What can you do to help foster your child’s emotional intelligence? In this article we will discuss ways one can boost their child’s emotional intelligence.

Adapt an Authoritative, Not an Autocratic Parenting Style
Parenting style has a huge influence on children’s emotional intelligence. When parents can guide their children while still being sensitive to their feelings, children have higher E.Q. Authorative parents are warm, but consistent in setting appropriate limits and boundaries. They will use discipline, but not at the expense of respectful communication and care. Their children will learn how to be sensitive to others and they will also learn how to “talk to themselves” compassionately, modelling after their parents. This gentle self-talk becomes a major aspect of their emotional intelligence, a tool they can use to reduce their stress in a healthy way.

Autocratic parents, on the other hand, don’t care that much about the child’s feelings. Instead, they focus on the rules of the household, what is allowed and what is prohibited, what the child may and may not do. Sensitivity to the child’s inner world is missing. In this case, children fail to experience parental empathy and as a result, fail to learn how to soothe their own upset emotions. They may attempt to relieve their discomfort by becoming aggressive, acting out their feelings. Eventually they may turn to comforts outside of themselves such as addictions (to food, alcohol, drugs, etc.). Acting out and addictive behavior reflects lower E.Q.

The more feeling words used by parents and educators, the more sensitive a child becomes to his inner reality. Most of us tend to use few emotion words in our dealings with children, and when we do, we often use the same few tired ones over and over.  It is important that we move beyond “mad,” “sad,” “glad,” and “scared.”  Shades of feeling are most helpful and can be used when describing our own feelings or the child’s feelings. Words like irritated, annoyed, frustrated, anxious, worried, terrified, alarmed, disappointed, hurt, insulted, embarrassed, uncomfortable, unsure, curious, interested, hopeful, concerned, shocked, elated, excited, enthusiastic, let down, abandoned, deserted, mellow, calm, peaceful, relaxed, bored, withdrawn, furious, enraged, frightened, panicked, and proud can be used DAILY to help provide an emotional education in the home or classroom. These are the regular feelings that children have in facing life, stimulated by everyday experiences, dreams, movies and even novels. Identifying a youngster’s emotional reaction and feeding it back to him, helps him to become aware of his inner processing. This information then forms the core of his emotional intelligence, providing an accurate barometer of his response to his world. From this place of inner certainty, a child is well-equipped to navigate life, knowing what he feels, what he is searching for and when he has attained it. His familiarity with the world of feelings allows him to connect accurately and sensitively with others. This prevents him from hurting other people’s feelings with words and further, permits him to achieve great kindness and sensitivity in his interpersonal transactions.

Here are some practical steps you can take to bring feelings into focus:

  1. Respond to your child. From the time your child is a crying infant to the time she is a young adult, be sure to be responsive. This means that you take her communications seriously. If she cries, try to come (instead of making her cry it out.). If she asks for something, try to answer her promptly. If she talks, you listen and respond appropriately. All of this responsiveness builds emotional intelligence because you are giving your youngster valuable relationship feedback. In the opposite scenario, in which a parent either fails to respond or responds only after a long waiting period, the child learns that people tune each other out. This causes the child to shut down. She assumes that her feelings aren’t that important based on lack of parental responsiveness and from this concludes that people’s feelings aren’t that important – the very OPPOSITE of the conclusions made by emotionally intelligent people. Quick responsiveness gives the message that people’s feelings matter. This is a prerequisite concept for emotional intelligence.
  2. Use a FEELING vocabulary. Pepper your daily conversation with “feeling” words. You can name your own feelings. Let your child know that you feel excited or dismayed or discouraged or resentful or whatever. This gives your child the vital information that everyone – including parents – has feelings and an inner life. Some people do this naturally, of course, but many do not. For instance, when a child is making too much noise, a parent may just say something like, “Can you please quiet down?” However, the Emotional Coach would say something like, “I’m starting to feel overwhelmed with all this noise going on. Can you please quiet down?” Similarly, a regular parent might give positive feedback to a child in this way, “I like the way you waited patiently in line with me at the bank today.” An Emotional Coach, on the other hand, might say something like, “I felt very relaxed with you in the bank today because you were waiting so patiently.” In other words, the Emotional Coach looks for opportunities to describe his or her inner experience. It is this description that helps the child begin to build an emotional vocabularly that will open the doors to Emotional Intelligence.
  3. Name your child’s feelings. Children feel feelings all day long but not all parents comment on them. In fact, many parents are more practical, focusing on solutions to problems. For instance, if a child is upset because there are no more of his favorite cookies left in the jar, the typical parent might say, “I’ll pick up some more for you when I go shopping this week.” While that solves the problem, it doesn’t build emotional intelligence. An Emotional Coach might say, “Oh, that’s so disappointing! You really love those cookies! I’ll pick some up for you when I go shopping this week.” The extra few words acknowledging the child’s inner world (“Oh that’s so disappointing”) make all the difference when it comes to building Emotional Intelligence. Similarly, parents often try to get kids to STOP their feelings or at least SHRINK their feelings by saying things like, “Just calm down – it’s not such a big deal” or “There’s nothing to be afraid of,” of “Don’t make a mountain out of a molehill.” The Emotional Coach, on the other hand, accepts all the child’s feelings, giving the child the name for what is going on inside. “I can see how upset you are,” or “You’re really scared about this,” or “It so important to you,” and so on. By accepting all feelings as they are, the Emotional Coach teaches kids not to be afraid of or overwhelmed by feelings. This is a very important part of becoming emotionally intelligent.
  4. Teach your child how to express emotions appropriately. While all feelings are acceptable, all BEHAVIORS are not. It is not O.K. to hit and scream just because you feel angry. It is not O.K. to cry for an hour at the top of your lungs just because you are disappointed. Parents must teach children – by their example and by their interventions – the appropriate behavioral expression of emotions. For instance, parents can teach children to express their anger in a respectful way by saying things like, “When you are mad at your brother for touching your puzzle, just tell him ‘I don’t want you to touch my puzzle. I’m working hard on it and it bothers me when you move the piece around.’ Don’t slap his hand!” Parents will have to use the normal techniques of positive attention, encouragement and discipline to get the lessons across. It is, of course, essential, that parents are respectful themselves in the way they express their upset, fear and disappointment. See “The Relationship Rule” in Raise Your Kids without Raising Your Voice for details on how to teach the proper way to express negative emotions.
  5. Let them experience failure and disappointment. It’s understandable that parents want to protect their children from disappointment. But know that rescuing children from pain, to the point that they never get to experience life, will backfire in the long run. Children need to know how to bounce back from adversity — resilience muscles need training too! And children won’t know how it is to rebound from disappointment if they aren’t allowed to experience it to begin with. When your child gets a poor mark on a project, don’t rush to the teacher to get the mark raised; instead, use emotional coaching with your child (that is, NAME her feelings). “This mark is so disappointing! You tried really hard and the teacher didn’t appreciate it. That is frustrating!” By naming feelings, you actually help shrink them down to size. Feeling words act as “containers” for feelings. It’s O.K. for the child to be upset, or even to cry. After awhile, she’ll calm down. And this is the important part – learning that calm follows a storm. Everything in life doesn’t need to be perfect. There is such a thing as recovery. “There will be more projects, more chances to get a good grade.” You want to show the child that you yourself aren’t afraid of negative experiences or emotions. This model that life is “survivable” can really help a child cope when the going gets rough.
  6. Expand their social network. Few parents think of other people as possible teaching instruments in promoting emotional intelligence. But kids can learn more from interesting personalities and other people’s life experiences than they can from a classroom lecture. Having to adapt well to different types of people — quiet, assertive, annoying, fun-loving — can teach a child how to regulate their behavior based on the demands of an interaction. The challenges other people go through can also provide insight on how to manage one’s own trials in life. Learning vicariously through the success and failure of other people is a good way to raise a child’s E.Q. So if you can, go ahead and enroll your child in various clubs or organizations. When they’re a bit older, encourage them to volunteer in community service. Send them on mission trips. Let them talk with grandpa or grandma. Every person has a lesson to impart to a child.

Baby Wakes Up at Night

You can’t blame exhausted parents for trying – they want their 8 hours of sleep back! So they read every book on the market and scour the online resources. “Rock your baby, don’t nurse her,” “Walk your baby till she falls asleep and then gently lay her in her crib,” “Sing to your baby while patting his back until he drifts off,” “Don’t pick her up again, just talk to her,” “let her cry 10 minutes before you come to her and then don’t pick her up,” and so on and so on. Many people offer advice about how to get a baby to sleep through the night because somewhere, for some baby, this advice actually worked at least once. However many, if not most, babies will defy your get-him-to-sleep strategies and continue waking up several times a night for—brace yourself—several years.

Why aren’t people aware of this fact? Because the popular culture suggests that if parents just do it right, their babies will be sleeping through the night by 4 – 6 months of age. Feeling embarrassed and inadequate, most parents with wakeful 8 month-olds or 2 year-olds simply don’t tell the truth to anyone. “Is your baby sleeping through the night?” the mom at the Moms & Babes group asks.  “Oh, yes. He sleeps quite nicely,” lies the other mom for fear of admitting what a failure she is at this tender stage of the game. Her lie only goes into the large pile in the sky that makes other normal parents feel guilty and ashamed. She should have answered, “Gosh no! Babies aren’t supposed to sleep through the night! Yours doesn’t, does he?”

Why Do Babies Wake Up?
Infants need things in the night. Their little bellies empty every couple of hours and for the first year or so, they actually get hungry in the night. In addition, when babies cycle into light sleep, they “realize” that they are alone; they crave warm body contact and cry out for it. In the second year of life, nursing babies suckle for the same reason—no longer just out of hunger (because their tummies have grown and can hold more food), but now out of longing for physical contact. Some babies are sensitive to the sensations of their own bodies and will wake with discomfort from a wet or dirty diaper.

All of this waking has been programmed into babies for their survival. If you were a paraplegic without a wheelchair or other equipment, unable to speak the local language and unable to get yourself from point A to point B,would you want to be left alone for 8 hours at a time? Probably not. You would want to know there was someone near by who could meet your needs. Have you ever been stuck in a dentist’s chair or other restraining medical device for 15 minutes without someone in the room? Did you feel a twinge of the panic of helplessness in that situation? What if you needed something? What if you wanted to tell someone something?

Babies are in that position until they become toddlers. They are helpless. To top it all off, they are like foreigners—unable to speak the local language. They open their mouths but they cannot put their needs and wishes into words; they can just make noise.  For all these reasons, babies are programmed to be distressed about finding themselves alone. It just isn’t safe for them to be alone. There are serious survival issues going on. They wake up for contact to in order to assure that they will be looked after. This is not something that we want to program babies out of any more than we would want to program adults out of their scream response when faced with life-threatening danger.

Training Babies to Sleep Through the Night
Nonetheless, removing survival instincts can be accomplished, if we only persevere long enough. By ignoring a baby’s cries consistently, the baby will learn that no one will come and there is no point in crying anymore. If this experience only occurs at night, the baby learns that there is no point waking up at night. For parents, this translates into a baby who sleeps through the night. If it happens both day AND night, the baby goes into a hopeless depression (as seen in “failure to thrive” syndromes), since he “realizes” that he has been abandoned and there is no further hope of getting his needs met (and therefore no further reason to keep trying to bring help through crying). Fortunately, for most babies, the “abandonment” experience is happening only at night. However, the newly subdued baby has still learned that there is no point in crying. This will not lead to hopeless depression. In fact, in babies who are now enjoying a better night’s sleep, we may even see improved daytime mood.

Here is the problem however: if a baby quickly catches on to the idea that crying at night is a waste of time, there is minimal suffering on the baby’s part. However, if the baby has the “not-so-good sleep genes” that cause him to put up a royal battle, screaming for weeks or months  before he finally submits to the new regime, then it could be that the child is truly suffering. What this does to his long term development is simply not known. Some say it does nothing. Others say that it causes trauma. More research is required before we will know the truth.

Tired Parents
Even if parents do not want their babies to feel abandoned, it is not clear that responding to their every cry at night is the action of choice. After all, tired parents also pose a risk for babies. Tired parents have less patience with their children and are therefore more likely to engage in poor parenting techniques like snapping at the kids (including the baby), yelling or speaking in a harmful way. Fatigue causes more daytime errors including driving more dangerously, forgetting to turn off electric elements and putting the baby down in unsafe locations “just for a moment.” Exhausted parents can even dose off during the day when they need to be alert. Therefore, it is essential that parents find a way to balance their own needs for sleep with their babies’ needs for night-time wakings. This is especially important because night-time waking happens, as stated earlier, in the majority of homes—not the minority. And, it continues for the early years of childhood in many homes. Therefore a coping strategy is badly needed!

Here are some strategies that parents have found to be helpful. Not all will be practical for your own situation, therefore simply choose any that might fit into your own lifestyle:

  • Keep the baby in bed with you and DON’T get out of bed the entire night (see Dr. Sears’ books on attachment parenting for details of co-sleeping techniques and strategies). Although you’ll still be waking in the night to tend to the baby’s needs, you’ll need to expend less energy doing so.
  • Keep toddlers on a small crib-size mattress on the floor near your bed. At first, they can start in your bed and when they fall asleep, you can gently place them on the floor mattress beside you.
  • Have the baby or toddler sleep on a large mattress on the floor in her own room. When you wake up, go to the child’s bed and sleep there the rest of the night.
  • Tend to the baby in his crib when he cries at night. In the daytime, hire a daily baby-sitter and take a nap for a couple of hours. If the baby is in play group or daycare and you are at home, take your nap during those hours.
  • Alternate “baby duty” with your spouse. Whoever tends to the baby at night, gets a one or two hour evening nap the next day while the sleeping spouse takes responsibility for house & childcare.
  • Alternate night-time shifts with your spouse so that neither of you gets completely exhausted. For example, one answers cries until 2 a.m. and one answers cries after 2 a.m.
  • Use weekends to catch up on sleep. One spouse sleeps in late on Saturday; the other sleeps in late on Sunday.

As you can see, all of these strategies address the problem of night-time waking by assuming it is going to happen, parents are going to be tired and they will need to make up the sleep somehow. This approach is more in line with reality than trying to get babies and young children to stay asleep all night long. But here’s the good news: once kids are around 4 years old, there are effective strategies that can be used to really keep them in their beds throughout the night. By the time a child is this age, he can speak and walk; he is no longer totally helpless. He is familiar with his world and is achieving a level of competence. No harm will be done now by insisting that he stay in his own bed. So just hang in there. Sleep is coming. That is, until your child turns 15. Then you’ll be up at night again—waiting for him to come home. Sigh.

Unsettled After Death, Divorce or Other Trauma

Although most of us wish that children could be sheltered from the pain in life, the reality is that many youngsters endure real trauma during their developmental years. One of the more common forms of modern trauma is the breakup of the family. Divorce is certainly hard for the adults who go through it but it can actually be traumatic for children – because of the loss of contact with a beloved parent, because of conflict that accompanies it, or because of life changes such as moving away from friends and family, acquiring a “step family” and so on. Death of a parent is another, usually traumatizing, experience that many children endure. But many children endure all kinds of other traumas that are less spoken about such as the serious illness and/or death of a sibling, family violence or chronic, intense conflict, addictions or mental illness within the family and much, much more. Children react to these kinds of intense stresses differently from adults. In fact, parents may not even realize that the child is suffering, since one of the common ways that kids handle overwhelming stress is to “act normal!”

If there has been intense stress in your child’s life, consider the following tips:

No Reaction is a Reaction
Suppose your friend was a passenger in a car that experienced a serious collision. The driver and two other passengers were instantly killed. The car was demolished, blood was everywhere, four firetrucks, 3 ambulances and 5 police vehicles were on the scene within minutes. Your friend miraculously escaped unharmed. Over the next days, weeks and months, this friend went about his or her business as if nothing at all had happened. He or she ate well, continued to joke around and enjoy life, never spoke about the accident and just went on very much “as normal.” Wouldn’t you find that a bit strange?

This is exactly the way many children respond to traumatic events in their lives. Instead of registering the pain and acting it out, they appear on the outside to be completely fine. What has probably happened, however, is that the overwhelming pain has been dissociated – cut off from the child’s conscious awareness. It is stored somewhere where the child can’t feel it just yet. It may surface years or even decades later, as more life stress builds up and eventually triggers it. Sometimes, it remains mentally dissociated for a lifetime, but expresses itself through the body in various forms of physical disease. The reason that children dissociate in this way is that they don’t have the emotional or intellectual resources to assimilate the experience. In other words, they just can’t handle it at the time it is happening.

If it appears that your child is not affected by a traumatic event, in reality he is quite likely affected! However, you can help. First of all, make sure that YOU are talking about the events. Some parents think, “why rock the boat? If my kid isn’t bothered by the tragedy, I’m sure not going to mention it!” Or, parents think to themselves, “the child is too young to understand or care about what is happening. There is no need to discuss it with him or her.” This is exactly the opposite of a helpful response. The child is likely to assume that the incident or events CANNOT be spoken about because they are way too terrible. On the other hand, when parents talk about what is happening and name their own feelings about it, they help children to take in the experience as a legitimate part of life and they help the child learn that his or her feelings about it are normal, expected, healthy and welcome. For instance, suppose a family suffers a crib death of their new baby. The mother can approach their children aged 4 and 6 and say something like, “It is so sad for all of us that our baby died. Daddy and I are so sad right now. You might be feeling that way too. We’re also confused. It’s hard to understand how this happened so suddenly; the baby was healthy just yesterday! You must also be feeling confused. We will all be thinking about this for quite awhile. Eventually, the pain will go away and we’ll all be happy again.” Parents can include any spiritual beliefs that they hold and want to provide their kids with at times of tremendous stress and upheaval.

Physical Reactions
While children may not be able to express their shock and pain in words, they may be able to feel it in their bodies. Headaches, tummy aches, colds and flu’s can all increase as an aftermath of intense stress. Play therapy can help children who are “somatizing” (sending emotions through their physical bodies) and talking therapies can help older kids and teens in the same way. Once emotions are acknowledged, physical complaints often subside.

Sleep Issues May be a Reaction
A child may have trouble sleeping through the night or sleeping alone in his or her bed. Or, the child may have trouble falling asleep or may suffer from nightmares. This may be part of a larger syndrome of Acute Stress Disorder (that happens as a trauma is occurring or within the month following) or Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (that happens more than a month after traumatic events have ended) or Chronic Stress Disorder (the effects of ongoing stress such as living with family violence or addiction or other deeply disturbing issues).

Psychotherapy will help the child clear out the feelings of stress. This will allow him or her to have restful, normal sleep.

Anxiety and Mood Issues may be a Reaction
A child or teen may experience panic attacks, separation anxiety (always wanting to be in the presence of loved ones), increased irritability or chronic sadness. Again, when parents are able to talk about what is happening in the family, children experience fewer emotional symptoms. Sometimes, however, the child or teen may benefit most from personal counseling in order to process the events and lift the burden of stress from the mind oand body.

Misbehavior or “Acting Out” may be a Reaction
Sometimes children become rebellious, disrespectful, impulsive or otherwise poorly behaved at home and/or school in response to stress that is happening at home. Particularly if the poor behavior is a change from previous functioning, parents should consider the possibility of this being a reaction to stress. Counseling for the parents may help reduce the stress in the home and the child’s behavior may simply improve by itself as a consequence. However, some of the stress that may trigger poor behavior are not remediable by parent counseling (for instance, the death of a family member). Nonetheless, parents may benefit from counseling that can address specific behavior and emotional interventions that THEY can provide for their child at home. If these are insufficient, the child him or herself, may need some sort of counseling or behavior therapy.

Afraid to Sleep in Own Room

Kids of every age can be afraid to sleep in their own room. This can cause stress for the whole family. Parents get frustrated – especially if the child is no longer a toddler or pre-schooler. Siblings may be disturbed by the distress of the fearful child. Bedtime can be a nightly struggle and difficult experience for the child who is afraid.

If you have a child who is afraid to sleep in his or her room, consider the following tips:

Separation Anxiety is Normal in Very Small Children
Toddlers and pre-schoolers like to be near their parents at night. This doesn’t mean that they are suffering from clinical anxiety. In this age group, anxiety about being in one’s own room apart from parents, is perfectly normal. Of course, it’s annoying and inconvenient for parents! Parents would like their kids to just go to sleep quickly and easily and stay that way until the appropriate hour for waking in the morning. For very small children, this is not the most common scenario. Most young children need help settling down to sleep in their own beds and many need some sort of nighttime parental comfort as well. However, most of them outgrow these needs over time and do go to sleep happily in their own rooms.

Daytime Anxiety and Nighttime Anxiety are Related
While there are some children who are ONLY fearful at night, they are in the minority. Most kids with nighttime fears have experienced or are experiencing other fears as well. The tendency to be fearful or anxious is a genetically inherited trait. The child is not at fault for feeling afraid. He or she can’t help it! And he or she is suffering from it. The child needs YOUR help to learn to manage anxious feelings.

Saving the child from those things that he fears actually increase fear over time and causes it to spread. For instance, if a child is afraid of dogs and the parents are careful to prevent the child from ever having to deal with a dog, then the child’s fear of dogs will remain, and even intensify over time. Moreover, it is very likely that other fears will also develop. The reason for this phenomenon is that the child’s brain can never survive the fearful stimulus, since it is always avoiding that stimulus. You can’t master the fear of dogs when you are never allowed to be in the presence of dogs. What has to happen is that the child is helped to experience “survival” in the presence of a dog and this helps build confidence that dogs can be tolerated. The learning that something fearful can be tolerated allows the child to tolerate other anxiety-provoking things as well.

The trick is to HELP the child feel comfortable enough to be with the dog so that he can stay there long enough to feel he has “survived” the experience. Helping the child is a step-by-step process. For instance, the first step might be staying with the child while the child sees a dog that’s safely secured in a cage (at the pet store for instance).  A next step might be holding the dog tightly on a leash, a distance from the child who is being held by an adult. A next step, might be to bring the dog a bit closer while being held on the leash. And so on.

These same ideas can be applied to helping a child overcome fear of sleeping in his or her own bed. A gradual process is easiest on the fearful child, allowing him or her to build confidence step by step. For instance, when putting the fearful child to bed, sit on the bed or lie down with the child for a few minutes until the child is able to fall asleep. A next step might be to sit beside the child until the youngster falls asleep. A next step might be to sit by the door of the child’s room, then just outside the door of the room, then in the hallway and then somewhere else on the same floor as where the child is sleeping and, if the house has more than one storey,  then being on a different level of the house than the child.

Making it Easier for the Fearful Child
Not only does the child have to face and survive whatever he or she fears, but the child needs to feel comfortable during the process. If the child ISN’T comfortable, it is very unlikely that facing the fear will actually happen. Some children have only a minor fear of sleeping alone in their rooms. But others are intensely fearful. Those with relatively minor levels of fear, may be able to just “build up their emotional muscles” by experiencing the step-by-step parental withdrawal program described above.

However, children with intense fear may just panic as soon as the parent attempts to leave the room. Panic is an overwhelming sense of anxiety accompanied by all sorts of very uncomfortable physical and emotional symptoms. Children who throw a big tantrum may actually be experiencing feelings of panic. They need help in managing such strong reactions. But what help do children receive? Keep in mind that adults have access to powerful medications to take the edge off their own anxiety. Children, on the other hand, are left for the most part to tolerate their feelings without relief.  Fortunately, there are some forms of alternative medicine that can be safe for children and that can help gently lift intense fear out of their system.

For instance, Bach Flower Remedies can gently melt away the tendency to be fearful. The remedy Aspen is suitable for fear of the dark. The remedy Mimulus is suitable for fear of separation from parents (fear of being alone). The remedy Rock Rose is good for relieving symptoms of panic. A Bach Flower Practitioner can make a remedy bottle containing the most appropriate flower remedies for your child or you can read about the remedies and choose those that you think may be helpful, or you can try any one or all of the three mentioned here. The pre-mixed remedy called “Rescue Remedy” can also help with nighttime panic. If using only one remedy, drop 2 drops of it into a bit of liquid (any kind), 4 times a day until the anxiety has lifted. If using more than one remedy, put 2 drops of each in a Bach Mixing Bottle (one ounce glass bottle sold where Bach Flower Remedies are sold in health food stores) that has been filled with water. Add a teaspoon of brandy to preserve the bottle. Give four drops four times a day until the anxiety has lifted.

Essential oils can also soothe nighttime anxiety. Consult a professional aromatherapist for a suitable preparation and dose whenever using essential oils since they are slightly medicinal. Essential oils like lavendar or chamomille might be useful.

Herbal remedies can also soothe fear. However, always consult a professional herbalist for correct herbs and dosage since these are medicinal. Teas that you can purchase ready-made in health food stores and supermarkets are likely safe for children, but of course, they are far less potent. Nonetheless, giving the child a bit of chamomille tea or “sleepy-time” teas may help calm his or her nervous system.

Homeopaths, accupuncturists and naturopaths may also be able to help.

Get Help if Necessary
Parents cannot always solve the problem themselves. If you’ve tried to help your child in various ways but nothing is making a positive difference, consult a child psychologist or other mental health professional. This person can teach your child more skills for coping with and reducing fearful feelings. With the proper help, your child WILL soon be sleeping alone in his or her own room without fear.

Bedtime Anxieties

Bedtime anxieties are common and occur for many reasons.

If your child suffers from bedtime anxieties, consider the following tips:

Fear of the Dark is Common and Normal
Children are afraid of monsters, shadows, robbers and all kinds of things that go “bump” in the night. Here are a few things you can do to help them settle:

  • Try Bach Flower Remedies. For vague fears like fear of monsters or the dark, use the remedy “Aspen.” (Add 2 drops to any liquid, 4 times a day until the child is no longer afraid). For specific fears like fears of robbers or fears of being kidnapped, use the remedy “Mimulus.” For night-time panic attacks or hysteria, use “Rock Rose” during the day and “Rescue Remedy” at night.
  • Use “bibliotherapy” – that is, read bedtime stories or make up stories about hero-type children and grownups slaying monsters, being brave, overcoming challenges and otherwise solving problems. When children hear stories about small people conquering big challenges, they incorporate the message into their own self-concept. They come to believe that they are powerful problem-solvers, rather than helpless victims.
  • Leave the light on for your child as he or she falls asleep. If your child wakes up in the night, then it’s fine to leave the light on all night too.
  • If the fear persists, consult a child psychologist.

Fear of Bad Dreams
Children who’ve been suffering from nightmares and bad dreams sometimes don’t want to go to sleep – they’re afraid of having another bad experience. Try to arrange a consultation with a mental health practitioner. A child psychologist will be able to help your child learn tools for ending the nightmares and coping with the fear of them.  Getting professional help is absolutely necessary if your child’s bad dreams are happening as the result of truly frightening life events that the youngster has experienced. For instance, if the child is having nightmares after being bullied at school, or being abused by an adult, or being in an accident or natural disaster – seek professional psychological help.

If your child’s bad dreams are not caused by some terrifying or upsetting life events, you might try some “self-help” techniques first, before seeking professional help for the child. For instance, you can give the child Bach Flower Remedies for a short while to see if that helps solve the problem. Consult a Bach Flower Practitioner to get the most accurate guidance. If this isn’t possible, try giving the child Rescue Remedy before bedtime. If this doesn’t help, try giving 2 drops of “Agrimony” in liquid 4 times a day and see how that goes. Another technique that you can try, is to have the child describe his or her bad dream. Then help the child tell the story again, with a new, much better ending. Have the child tell you the new dream over and over – maybe twice a day for a week or so. See if this helps end the fear. Finally, experiment with “crystal healing.” Go to a rock & mineral store and buy a small piece of amethyst for your child to hold at night. Tell the child that the amethyst can help make bad dreams go away. See if this helps your youngster. If it does help, it really doesn’t matter whether the help came from the placebo effect (just believing that it would work) or because amethyst can actually prevent bad dreams!

Children and Teens can Suffer from Anxiety Disorders
During the daytime, everyone is busy. Although both children and adults can be anxious during the day, they can be even more anxious around bedtime. Defenses fall away as we get ready for sleep. Those who are anxious by nature, will find that anxiety rises as the mind and body begin to relax and get ready for sleep. At this point, children and teenagers may be so overwhelmed with anxiety that they can’t sleep alone in their beds or their rooms or they can’t fall asleep or stay asleep. Some children and teens start to ruminate – they think and think and think about everything under the sun. Or they start to worry. Or they just feel vague unease. Or they begin to feel symptoms of panic. Different kinds of anxious feelings require different interventions. It is best to have your child’s anxiety treated by a qualified mental health professional like a psychologist.or psychiatrist. If the anxiety is mild, you might try some self-help techniques first. As above, you can consider Bach Flower Remedies. Try to find a Bach Flower Practitioner to prepare a remedy bottle for your child. Alternatively, your child might respond well to EFT (Emotional Freedom Technique). There are many therapists who can teach this technique to you and your child and there are also excellent on-line resources and books where you can learn the technique yourself. Children can also learn simple versions of Mindfulness Meditation that help ease anxiety. Find a teacher who works with young people or find a psychologist who practices Mindfulness Based Psychotherapy or Mindfulness Based Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (MBCBT).

Fear of Strangers

Around 5 or 6 months of age, many babies begin to develop a fear of strangers. This fear tends to peak in intensity between 8 and 10 months and then gradually diminishes by around 15 or 16 months. However, some toddlers remain somewhat afraid of strangers and some may appear shy all the way through childhood. The amount of fear of strangers that a baby or child experiences depends mostly on that youngster’s genes. A child with loving parents and patient caretakers can be very fearful of strangers just because he or she is a fearful child in general. On the other hand, a child may be extremely friendly to everyone even during the peak “stranger anxiety” phase simply because he or she has inherited an extroverted, people-loving, confident nature.

Stranger Anxiety
Many psychologists see “stranger anxiety” as a positive developmental stage in infants. It indicates that the baby can distinguish between primary caregivers like Mommy, Daddy, Grandma, Nanny and so on – and actual strangers or non-family members. This is an important skill for intimate bonding later on. The ability to really care who hugs you is healthy and a precursor for strong intimate relationships in adulthood. However, a baby needn’t demonstrate terror of strangers in order to indicate his ability to distinguish loved ones from strangers; showing a preference for loved ones is enough of an indication that Baby knows the difference. If your baby cries hard when being handed over to a stranger, however, try to see it as a positive sign, even though it is temporarily upsetting for that stranger.

Sometimes the “stranger” is Grandma or Grandpa. If the baby doesn’t see relatives on a regular basis, he or she may consider these people to be strangers. This can be insulting or hurtful for relatives. However, your job is to do what is best for the baby – not for the adult. Therefore, don’t force an upset baby to stay in the arms of a stranger just to try to make the stranger feel better. Rather, take the baby back to your own arms and tell the other person, “Baby likes to look at you from here – he’s very attached to Mommy right now. In a few months he’ll be asking for YOU to pick him up!” If the other person doesn’t like this reality, don’t worry – he or she will get over it eventually. Meanwhile, you have taught your baby that you will respond to his or her cries and meet his or her needs. This helps the baby develop trust in the environment. When the baby has lots of trust, he or she will have an easier time trusting people appropriately.

Just the Right Amount of Fear
As the baby grows, you will want him to be appropriately fearful of strangers. In other words, you don’t want your preschooler running up to strange men in the park and playing with them. You want them to feel appropriate levels of comfort with known people and appropriate levels of discomfort with unknown people. It can be tricky to teach children to have “just the right amount” of fear and not to have excessive, paranoid or insecure feelings that make them uncomfortable all the time. Here are some tips on how to “stranger proof” your child without terrorizing him or her:

  • tell your child that most adults are very nice and that it is safe to say “hello” to people who say “hello” to them. However, tell them that they don’t need to talk to adults who they don’t know beyond returning a greeting.
  • tell your child to come straight to you or their caregiver if an adult seems to want to talk to them. Just tell them that you or the caregiver needs to meet the adult first.
  • tell your child never to go anywhere with an adult they don’t know but DO NOT tell them about how adults can hurt and kill children and so on. Instead, provide adequate supervision for your very young child; do not leave small children out of your sight for even a moment.
  • when your child is a little older and is ready to go to school, explain that adults don’t need to talk to children and if an adult tries to talk to them, they should not answer, but instead quickly get themselves to a safe adult (one they know!).

As stated earlier, some children are afraid of strangers because they have a fearful nature. They just don’t like meeting new people. When introduced to an adult by their parents, they hide behind Mom’s skirt and suck their thumb (if they’re little) or stare silently (if they’re older). If your child is like this, you might try a treatment of Bach Flower Therapy. The remedies “Mimulus” and “Cerato” can be helpful. A Bach Flower Practitioner can recommend a specific mixture of remedies best suited for your child. These harmless preparations can help ease fear of people out of the child’s system over time. Social skills groups can also build up a skill repetoire that helps children feel more confident in social situations. If the fear is interfering with the child’s life, a trip to a child psychologist can help reduce anxiety and build healthy coping patterns that will serve the child well throughout life.