Facebook post from Member A: We are traveling this week and 5yo son has his own room at his grandma’s house. He woke up no less than 6x last night because he said “he doesn’t like sleeping alone”. He sleeps in his own room at home every night and we’ve made the environment as alike to home as possible (routine, sound machine, lovey). He’s an anxious kid with a very active imagination – any thoughts on how to get him through this trip?! TIA!
Reply from Member B: So our son has issues sleeping on his own I know it’s a little different but it could be as simple and the smell of the room is different. It’s a different bed and surroundings and smells are different. There might not be anything you can do since you are on vacation but if you can make changes sensory wise it might help.
Reply from Member C: Oh man this is tough. I don’t know if I have anything to get you through it but I would recommend that you stick to your plan and keep him in his own room since that’s how he sleeps at home. On our last vacation we sat in my 6-year-old’s room for her to go to sleep because we were in an unfamiliar place and oh my gosh it was like 2 months to get her back on schedule at home. I wish we had just toughed it out on vacation.
Also spend time playing in that room during the day so it doesn’t seem so unfamiliar, but you probably already thought of that.
Reply from Rachel: I completely agree with what Member B and Member C said — the difference could very well be sensory as much as emotional, I would keep him sleeping in his own room, and it’s a GREAT idea to play during that room during the day.
I’d also add some time for connection and teaching him to cope:
CONNECTION (The “respect” piece): Connection would be about listening to why he doesn’t like the room. Then when he’s done, I’d say, “Thank you so much for telling me.”
TEACHING (The “Firm” piece): After a pause — so he knows you weren’t JUST trying to “fix” the situation — I’d let him know that since he needs to sleep in that room,, you’d like to help him find ways to get through the night that consider [everything he just told you in the connection step]. Give him some strategies to use, and if at all possible, practice those strategies during the day.
Ultimately empowering kids — especially those with anxiety — is about letting them face what they’re afraid of while giving them tools to get through it!
Keep us posted!
Reply from Member A: We had big time resistance tonight. He says he’s scared of the room but can’t tell us why. He’s now got a dim light on and a wider-cracked door. We’ve talked about being brave and I’ve told him when he can expect me to check on him (10min – 30 min – and hopefully that’s all he’ll be awake for). He told me he listed food, trucks and animals in his head to fall asleep last night, so he’s going to try that again tonight. And we have a big trip to get donuts in the morning after a good night.
Reply from Rachel: Love the strategy of telling him you’ll check on him and giving him a plan to fall asleep. Let us know tomorrow whether he made it through (and how donuts were!!)
Reply from Member A: He finally fell asleep – now we will see if he stays asleep. Question: he kept asking if family members were home from being out of the house. He was very concerned that not all of his chicks were in the nest. Any ideas why he is all of a sudden so concerned about this?!
Reply from Member D: I notice that when my daughter is starting to get anxious or worried she’ll start to direct it at something else. It’s almost a coping mechanism of trying to handle such big feelings. He probably was just asking about the family members because he was already worried about the sleeping. Glad he fell asleep
Reply from Rachel: I completely agree with Member D. Worries tend to get “transformed” into whatever is around us at the time. It’s our brain’s way of keeping us “safe” to any possible threat. (And when we’re in Yuck already, we see more things as threats…)
Reply from Member E: I’m a sleep consultant. Even adults have a hard time sleeping in a strange place. I have a friend who’s a flight attendant and he brings his own pillow and duvet with him as he travels!
One thing you can try is some play time in the room he’ll be sleeping in, a few times a day. It should be physical play and ideally include a lot of laughter. It can be tickling, rough and tumble play, dance party or anything else. It seems odd, but laughter releases endorphins and he’ll start to have a positive association with the room and sleep environment. It doesn’t need to take long – 5-10 minutes, 1-2x/day.
It can make a massive difference. Good luck!
Reply from Member A: Thank you for these tips! I will be adding his pillow to our packing list for future car trips – and a pillow case for airplane trips. Hopefully that will help! I was facetiously wondering if I should put one of my dirty shirts in his bed – it seems to help puppies lol