Parenting Advice: My Child Is Afraid To Go On Sleep-Overs

Usually, children love to go on sleep-overs with their friends. They enjoy going out on overnight camps and other special events where they are required to stay away from home for a few days. Somehow, some children develop a fear for sleeping away from home and they refuse to go. Here are some tips to help your child overcome that fear.

First of all, recognize the fact that it is a problem and most probably your child wants to get rid of it even more than you may want. So, ridiculing him by saying things like, ‘don’t be such a baby,’ will only aggravate the problem. This is the time your child needs all your support and understanding. You will need to come up with a well-defined strategy to help your child overcome his fear. You may take help of experts through books or on the internet, if you can’t think of a plan yourself.

You need to use the gradual process of desensitization to help your child overcome the fear. The problem may not be just sleeping away from home, but, perhaps, sleeping away from the mother. Children are sometimes scared to go to their own beds also.

Once you have identified the problem, start working on it by dividing the process into small achievable goals. Start from the point where the child is now – that is to say start with what is familiar and comfortable to the child. Gradually take him to the next step. For instance, if your child would rather sleep on the floor next to your bed than in his own bed, start by putting him in his bed and leaving the door is open. If your child is comfortable with the grandparents, you may send him for a sleep-over to them so that he gets used to being away from home.

Next, get some cooperation. Agree on some tasty goal that you child would really like to be able to accomplish – like a sleep over for her friend’s birthday party, or going to camp in the summer. Write this down.

The point is to start with an overnight stay away from home in a place where your child is physically and emotionally comfortable. And then, gradually get him ready for a camp for five nights. May be you will have to start by getting your child to sleep in his room with the door shut. Be very sensitive to your child’s emotions and give him time to work on his fear. Don’t be in a rush; it is not going to help any one.

Of course, you will need to adapt this plan according to your own circumstances. For instance, you might have to break each step into smaller parts and give ample time to move from one step to the next. Fear is a deep-seated illogical emotion; it needs time to work on it. Always start with what is pleasant and desirable and gradually move towards the goal. Start with what he is comfortable with doing right now. Then take the next step, such as moving from the floor next to your bed, to the floor in the hallway just outside your bedroom door.

As I said earlier, do this with the active participation of your child. Talk to him and take decisions regarding the starting date and the rewards as well as how you will celebrate success. Just make sure you don’t set goals that are not achievable. Try to make each step an easy one. Spend ample time on each step till your child is willing to move on to the next step. You may want to add incentives at every step to expedite the progress.

If she fails at a step (eg crawls back into your room from the hallway), just retreat to the previous step, consolidate that a bit longer, increase the rewards, and have another go.

One word of caution: Don’t expect instant results. You should be willing to spend some time with your child to help him work through the steps. But if you have a well-planned strategy, and you implement it slowly and systematically, you will certainly succeed. Be generous with plenty of encouragement and rewards.