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Ask a Sleep Coach: My Son Can’t Sleep Without a Light On

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My 9.5-year-old son always wants to sleep in his room with a lamp on under his loft bed plus a Shabbos lamp on top of a shelf right next to him every night. 

Even to get him to go to sleepaway camp I have to send him with glow sticks to sleep with each night, since he can’t have all the lights that he normally likes. At camp he also keeps a flashlight with him at all times.

The same applies with us walking to Shabbos dinner and needing a glow stick to walk home in the dark, or even making sure I have backup at shul when we walk home from Havdallah. 

Is there anything wrong with this and will he out grow of it? 

Thank you,

Dawn 

Hi Dawn,

Children are miniature people. They have real feelings, real thoughts, and real idiosyncrasies! Your son’s emotions are so much bigger than he is, and he’s probably having an extremely difficult time pinpointing what his feelings are and how to cope with them.

No, there is nothing wrong here and there’s nothing wrong with him. But instead of focusing on his need to have light nearby for his protection, try to figure out what his fear is in the first place. Is he afraid that something or someone will hurt him? Did something happen recently that caused him to be scared? Is it the dark and unknown that makes him uneasy (not being able to clearly see his surroundings?) It is nearly impossible to work on solutions for any issues with our children before first confronting and addressing what those issues are.

So first thing’s first: talk to him about what his worries are and how you can help him feel more secure. Aside from two lights at night, what else makes him feel safe? Does he like it when you read him a story before bed about heroes, or does he prefer a calming, soft song?

Next, ease him into the transition of not needing so many glow sticks and night lights. At bedtime, instead of having two lamps on, try having one. Going for a walk after the meal Friday night? Maybe you can hold the glow stick to help him slowly and gradually relinquish control while still allowing him to feel secure in the process.

Last and most importantly, don’t let him go through this alone! Fight his fears together with him. Let him know that you’re there for him, and that you will help him through this. If he’s uncomfortable with any changes you incorporate, become involved. You can sit there with him at bedtime so he isn’t anxious (or at least less anxious), hold his hand a bit tighter than you normally would on your night-time walks, and do everything and anything you can to support him.

From my experience dealing with sleep issues, most behaviors don’t just magically disappear. If your son has a real phobia of something, it’s better to address it when he is young so that his fears don’t grow up with him and become bigger and more intense.

Please let us know how it goes!

Israeli sleep coach, Batya Sherizen takes questions from Kveller readers. Send your problems to info@kveller.com.

 

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