What to do if your kids are scared of sleeping in their own room

This is part of a series on getting kids to bed at night and keeping them in their rooms. To read the first part of the article, please click here. Allison is a licensed therapist and mom. Here is how she and husband Derrick get their kids to bed in a reasonable amount of time each night and keep them there!
By the end of the day no one has energy for bedtime battles. Four moms share their best bedtime routine tips to get kids to bed quickly & to keep toddlers and older kids IN THEIR BED throughout the night!

“I have a sleeping disorder.  It is called my children.”


The night before the induction of my first child I remember thinking, “This is my last night full night asleep for a very long time.” As a person who NEEDS 8 to 10 hours of sleep a night to function, I dreaded having to get up multiple times a night to feed the baby.
Knowing the benefits of a full night’s sleep such as optimal brain functioning, increased emotional regulation, and greater life satisfaction, Derrick and I started training our kids from birth on how to sleep through the night. It wasn’t easy at times but we got there. Read on to find out what worked well for our family.

What is the age range of your children?

I have three super cool kids, Kyle is 12 years old, Charlotte is 10 years old, and Madelyn is 8 years old.

How long does it take to put your kids to bed at night?

From showers, teeth, twinkle-little star, some sprinkle sleeping dust, and a few kisses to lights out it takes about 30 to 40 minutes.

What does your bedtime routine consist of/look like on a regular night?

We eat dinner later in the evening, around 7 pm. While Derrick and I are cooking in the kitchen we have the kids start their showers.  After dinner, the kids brush their teeth. Then it is in to bed, twinkle, and a kiss.

What does it look like if you get home late?

As a therapist I have later hours to accommodate my clients needs, on those nights Derrick will start dinner and shower time before I get home.  If the whole family is running late, no stress, we just put them to bed a little later.

Do you have children that share a room? Does that work for your family? 

Kyle has his own room and the girls share a room. Charlotte would love to “not share a room” with her little sister and frequently reminds the family that at our next house she will have her own bedroom. Learning to share and getting along with each other is all part of being a family. When the girls complain about sharing a room, Derrick and I say, “Oh, well. That’s the way it is.” And let them figure it out. So, far sharing rooms has worked well for us.  But as we are nearing the teenage years that may all change.

What excuses do your children use to stay up later or to get out of bed?

Occasionally, Kyle will ask to read for a bit more before bed. Since he older, we usually give him an extra 10 minutes before he needs to turn his light off.

The girls’ main reason for wanting extra attention at night is they are scared or have had a bad dream. Last year, Charlotte and Madelyn were going through period of being scared of monsters at night. Some people use Monster Spray to help a child feel safe at night.  Knowing my girls, this would just end in a all out water fight. So, I came up with Sprinkle Dust. Each night I give them an imaginary bag of sprinkle dust and tell them the dust helps their minds to relax so they can have a good night sleep.

How do you respond if your child gets up after you have put them to bed?

So, Derrick and I were a bit preventative in this area. When we transitioned the kids from the crib to their own bed we put in place the rule that they could not get out of bed until we told them so. If they had to throw-up or go to the bathroom they could get out of bed but they had to go right back to bed and wait until we gave them the “Okay”.  Still, today the kids stay in bed unless they have to pee or throw-up.

What do you do if one of your children wakes up in the middle of the night and would like to sleep in your room or bed?

When they wake-up I go to their room to find out what is going-on. Usually they just need a little reassurance, a glass of water, or a hug.

Overall, we are a “no children in our bed” family except for morning snuggles. When breastfeeding I did co-sleep with the baby until they were about 2 months and then it was into the crib. So, my kids have been trained since an early age that they have their space to sleep and mom and dad have theirs.  Once each kid was able to sleep through the night, I figured they got this and kept on nurturing their self-confidence to self-sooth at night without coming into our bed.

If my kids are not currently used to going to bed when they are asked and get up frequently, or if they are used to me rocking them or laying with them to go to sleep, what would be your best advice?

Sometimes parents lack confidence in their child’s ability to self-sooth at night and worry that their child’s emotional distress will be too much for the child to handle. Given the choice children will choose the comfort of a parent rather then learning to rely on themselves. If you want to make some changes here are a few things to consider.

  1. Be reassured your child is perfectly capable of self-soothing at night and has the capacity to handle nighttime emotional distress. If you have been soothing your child by rocking them to sleep or lying next to them, then those are the two soothing tools you have taught your child. The great thing is you can help your child develop new ways to take care of their needs during the night.
  2. Develop a consistent nighttime routine and bedtime. Period. They need this and you need this for your sanity.
  3. Set clear age appropriate sleep expectations with your kiddo and stick by them. It may be exhausting the first few weeks consistently walking your child back into their room but they will catch on.
  4. Revamp your sleep toolbox.  From imaginary monster spray, pre-sleep routines, mindfulness techniques, there is a world of options to build your child’s sleep confidence and lessen their reliance on you. The Internet, online communities, friends, family, and mom support groups are all great recourses in finding new ways to respond to your child’s needs.
  5. You know your child’s and family’s needs best. What works well for another family may not work well for your family. Trust your instincts and do what works for your family.

What if my child is scared to sleep in their own room at night?

It is common for children resist sleeping in their own room at night due to fear. However, bedtime fears are a great opportunity for you to grow your child’s sense of autonomy and self-confidence. Here are a few simple steps to understanding your child’s nighttime fears:

How to Understand Your Child’s Nighttime Fears

Talk About Their Fear  

Some fears are imaginary, some are based on experiences at home, school, or with friends, some stem from a scary movie or news report. Learning about what is causing your child’s sleep anxiety helps you to better understand how to respond to their fears.

Validate That What Your Child Is Feeling Is Real

Letting your child know you care by treating their experience as genuine not only has a calming affect but also helps them with their development of empathic relationships with others.

Reassure Them That They Are Safe

Let your child know you are right next-door keeping them safe. They can sleep knowing that you are doing your job as a parent, keeping them safe.

Brainstorm Ideas They Can Try When They Feel Scared

Ask you child how they can help their minds feel calm? If your child is younger than 5 years, you can offer suggestions and let them choose.

How do your kids know when they can come out of their room in the morning?

When either Derrick or I give them the verbal “Okay”.

What do you do when your kids are sick?

I let them know I feel their pain (being sick is the worse), help them with their needs, then put them back into bed and repeat as needed.

What age do you think is best to transition kids from a crib to toddler bed?

When you are ready to deal with children getting out of bed ; )

Kids and sleep can be a really struggle for parents. Hang in there. They will sleep through the night. On a rough night keep these three key words in your back pocket for developing healthy sleep habits with kids… consistency, consistency, consistency. Make sure to check out some of my friends posts for more sleep suggestions and tips.

Next: Read about Amy’s bedtime routines –>
-or- Return to the bedtime routine article main page –>
By the end of the day no one has energy for bedtime battles. Four moms share their best bedtime routine tips to get kids to bed quickly & to keep toddlers and older kids IN THEIR BED throughout the night!

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