How to help son work through nighttime fears

Q: After scrimping and saving for a long time, my husband and I were able to put enough money together to buy a decent sized house for our family. It is great but we have run into a problem.

Since we moved into our new home about four months ago, our six-year-old has developed some kind of a phobia for the house. Almost every night, he ends up in our room, crying to us because he is afraid and markedly determined not to go back to his own room.

We have cuddled him, assured him and talked to him. We have punished and rewarded him. Nothing seems to work. Can you offer suggestions?

A: Let’s better understand what is going on with your son. The compartments built in the brain focus on thinking and ideas in addition to emotions or feelings.

When your son is running out of his bedroom, he is in the emotional part of his neurological structure but that is not what he finds when he comes into your room. You and your husband are caught up thinking.

Simple logic tells you that your son has nothing to fear in his bedroom. That is what you are telling him and, in doing so, you are bringing into play the thinking part of the brain.

Here is the problem. The thinking part of his brain has already told him, like you did, that he has nothing to fear but it did not work.

Can you imagine how frustrating it is for your son to think that he is not being heard?

Your best bet is to establish some kind of an emotional contact with your son, with the emotional part of your brain talking to the emotional part of his brain.

When you were a child, you also had fears. How about sharing them with your son, comparing and contrasting your fears with his?

If nothing else, this exchange reinforces your parent-child relationship and that is fundamental to anything you might expect or want from your son.

You cannot let him haunt your bedroom. He has to learn to deal with his own room and he cannot do that when he is crawling under your sheets.

He does not have to challenge his room all by himself but has you on his side. You can lie on his bed and listen to the various noises or sounds he is hearing. You can see the strange configurations of shadows haunting him and under-stand that this is frightening to him.

That other house might not have been as big or nice as this one is, but it was his home. He knew what the shadows were and he was familiar with all of those house noises that we tend to ignore.

All of this is intimidating to him, but it does not mean that it is intimidating to you.

I expect that you are quite comfortable in your new setting and that is what he needs.

He needs your comfort in the face of his fears. Through the security that you are sharing with your son, he will settle himself and shortly go to bed reassured that his fears are not going to chase him down the hallway to his parents.

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