Q. My 7-year old son is terrified to sleep in his room since he "saw a ghost" eight months ago. We pray, talk about trusting God and his guardian angels, and how the mind can play tricks on us, but nothing seems to work. We play Christian music and I sit with him for awhile before leaving the room. I even leave the closet light on, but he cries and begs me to let him sleep on the living room couch or my bedroom floor. I am out of ideas and patience.
A. It is normal for children to occasionally have bad dreams, nightmares, and night terrors between the ages of 4 and 11, but your son is dealing with a nighttime fear that seems to be escalating. Several of the ideas you have tried are good ones; however, his room is now associated with his learned insomnia pattern and is inadvertently reinforcing the problem. But you can deal with this problem without moving him to a new room. Your first step is to have a conversation with your son where you can work out a strategy together. Take him out on a date, just the two of you. Do something fun like getting ice cream or packing a picnic lunch to eat at the park.
Begin by acknowledging his fears and telling him you understand the problem is too big to handle on his own. Tell him that you are there to support him and help him through this time. Let him know that you and your husband need a good night's sleep and he does, too. This is not intended to create guilt but to promote partnership so he is motivated to help himself and you. Reassure him that you want his input in solving the problem.1