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Fear of Being Alone
My daughter hid under the bed twice today, under the table twice, and called me into her room after bedtime 4 times because she says she is afraid of monsters. She won't seek out me or my husband, but just calls out for us, or cries, or stays silent, until we come. Even when she doesn't hide, she asks me to ''come here because I'm scared'' (also happened countless times today.) It started about a month ago, and it's escalating, becoming a real handicap for doing anything in the house without being in the same room with her. Even if she can see me from where she is, by looking through a door, or even just looking across the kitchen/ dining room, she still asks me to come because she's afraid. Help! Do any of you have any experience with this? I am not looking for therapist recommendations, but for feedback from your own experiences. Thank you! Losing my empathy
My 9 year old son does not like to be alone in our home. We have a small house, 1000 sq. ft., and he wants his brother to be in the bathroom with him; brings a dog down the hall with him if he forgot a sweatshirt;and follows me from room to room if we are the only ones home. If I am in the bathroom, he is waiting outside the door until I come out. This has been the case since he was a preschooler. We have not drawn attention to it, as he can manage his anxiety(?) by enlisting someone's support. But it does get tiresome at times... Will he outgrow this fear? Does he need professional help? I need a moment alone
Over the past 6 weeks, my five and one-half year old daughter has become very afraid in our house. I know some of the causes but am looking for help in figuring out the best way to bring her out of it. She has shared a room with her 9 year old brother since birth. He now needs his separate space, so we fixed up a ''princess'' room for her to entice her into it. It is down the hall, further away from him and us. She started out saying she was scared of sleeping in her room -- her brother slept on the floor next to her for a few nites and then my husband and I have been taking turns lying down with her until she goes to sleep. Then she started expressing fear of being in any room by herself -- and asking someone to go with her into any other room in the house, including the bathroom. She has heightened sensitivity to noises and keeps asking what that ''booming'' sound is coming from outside, whatever room she is in. She also is waking up every night and wailing that she is scared. We have sometimes gone to lie down with her and last night, because of the fatigue-factor, my husband let her take her sleeping bag into her brother's room. Now I am afraid we are stuck. Any suggestions? Linda
This is the title of a chapter in my favorite parenting book Children the Challenge by Rudolf Dreikurs. His line, which seems appropriate in your daughter's case, is that children discover that fears are a powerful way to command attention. This does not mean that she is not really afraid, or that she is being consciously manipulative.
Paraphrased/quoted from Dreikurs: A small child, suddenly faced with a new and surprising situation that seems threatening (say, having a room all to herself) has several choices open to her. One of them is fear. Children are natural hams. They constantly play to the gallery. THey have no inhibitions, because they are as yet ignorant of the consequences of their behavior. The possibility of using fear as a technique was probably discovered accidentally. When she realized the benefits she could attain this way, naturally, she capitalized on it. Now she is enmeshed in a web of her own making. THe most useless thing parents can do is to tell her that her fear is silly. This is a challenge to uphold her position of being terror-stricken. If mother and father can be unimpressed by her screams (ie, ignore and redirect), they eliminate the purpose of the fear. *********
My take on the subject:
If she screams that she needs company in the bathroom, don't react at all to the fear, don't discuss it, try to reason with her, or any of that. Simply say. ''I am busy right now. If you'd like my company in the bathroom you'll have to wait until I have a spare minute.'' Have her wait a bit. With luck, she'll go on her own. If not, cheerfully announce that you've got some time for reading stories today. Tell her, ''We can read one in the bathroom if you'd like, or you can run quick to the potty and join me on the couch.'' If she starts talking about being afraid, ignore all that and say, ''Pick out a book, or I'll pick one, and we'll read in the bathroom.'' Staunchly refuse (by silence and redirection) to discuss fears. Read the book, resume what you were doing. Try to give her plenty of non-fear attention and no attention for her fears whatsoever. If she says she is afraid to go into a room without you, say, ''Well, I'm working in the kitchen now, you'll have to wait.'' Your tone should be matter-of-fact. No cajoling.
Bedtime: camoflauged bribery is in order. But you have to reward her with time with you. You want to move her away from getting attention for her fears to getting attention for something positive. Toys and candy won't work because what she wants is attention. Think of an activity that she loves to do. Tell her: ''I am hoping we can go to the zoo tomorrow. The only thing is, I haven't been getting much sleep lately. When I get woken up in the night it makes me too tired to go out and do fun things. I really want to take you to the zoo tomorrow, but I am afraid that if I get woken up in the night I won't have the energy for it.'' Make sure that you don't offer it as a reward. Instead, you are planning to go the zoo, and her negative behavior will stop that plan from going forward. Make sure to never couch going as a reward, or more importantly, not going as a punishment. Instead, if she wakes you up in the night with screaming, the next day say, ''I am so sorry that we had a rough night. I was so looking forward to the zoo. Maybe we can go tomorrow.'' On no account should you give in and go anyway! You are too tired! You want her to see what happens as a natural cause and effect of her own behavior, rather than as a power struggle between you and her.
One more thing. Here is why we should be unimpressed by fears: ''Our children cannot solve life's difficulties if they are full of fears. Fear does not increase the ability to cope with problems; it diminshes it. THe more afraid one is, the more he courts danger. But fears serve beautifully as a means to gain attention and put others into one's service. It is necessary to teach children caution in potentially dangerous situations. But caution and fear are distinctly different. The first is a reasonable and courageous recognition of possible dangers, while the second is a discouraged and paralyzing withdrawal. We can teach caution without instilling fear. If parents do not respond to fears, their children will not develop them, and parents and children alike will be free from the resulting torture and suffering.'' (abridged)
I'll end on a favorite Rudolf Dreikurs quotation: ''We cannot protect children from life. Nor should we want to. We are obligated to train our children in courage and strength to face life.''
Best of luck, susan
I remember staying in my own bedroom when we were living in our old apartment (I was 3-5). I used to cry every night, inconsolably. My parents would tuck me in and then close the door. For a time there, every night was a struggle. I cried myself to sleep every night. Eventually, my bed was moved to the dining room. While embarrassing when company came over, at least my parents avoided the nightly drama. All through my childhood, I was extremely afraid of the dark. I think it was because I was forced to stay in my bedroom by myself. Sometimes, I gathered enough courage to leave the bedroom and sneak into my brother's room or my parents' room. Once they found out, though, they practiced ''discipline'' and had all their doors locked at night. I am still afraid of the dark. I've even taken down our bedroom door. The anxiety from almost a lifetime ago hasn't fully left me.
Want to know what happened? I remembered / figured out a few years back that the reason I was petrified of staying in my bedroom at night was because sometimes (I have no idea how often) one of our neighbors would beat his son and wife and I would lay in bed listening to the sounds of stick beating flesh and the howling weeping cries that accompanied. Not to mention all the verbal assaults. I was too young to even know what I was listening to, much less explain to my parents the reasons behind my fears. If my parents had trusted my body when it cried for fear and discomfort, maybe I could've overcome my feelings of fear with feelings of sadness and safety.
I don't pretend to know everyone's individual situations. That's each parent's job. But I do firmly believe that human beings never do things for no reason. And I do not choose to view young, needy, developing souls in fear as people trying to manipulate me, consciously or not, intentionally or not. Fear indicates that something is wrong! Compassionately yours, Pei
A few weeks ago, I left my kids, five and eight year olds, in the car for a few minutes while I was buying a fish on Hopkins Street. (I know it was stupid) I did it only because I found a parking spot right in front of the fish store. And they didn't want to leave the car.(I know this is no excuse) A few minutes later my eight year old daughter was getting out of the car, so I rushed out the shop and asked why she was getting out of the car. She explained that a few kids--perhaps junior high age kids-- had come closer to the car and asked my kids how they were and wondered if they would like to come out, which apparently terrified my daughter, and when the other kids walked away, she got out of the car to look for me. As she was explaining her eyes were full of tears. To my utmost regret, my daughter is suffering from this experience. She has been always a very sensitive and impressionable child, and now she has a difficult time to be alone. She feels unsafe at school during the recess, or even at home when I go to the bathroom, she calls out looking for me. I am devastated and feel so miserable, especially that I have been the one who facilitated this event. I have been reassuring my daughter that I would never ever leave her and that she was safe, but her fear doesn't seem to disappear. I am not so sure about what to do to aleviate the anxiety my daughter is experincing. I can't just tell her not to feel the way she does. Could you share with me your wisdom, advice or experience? thank you. guilty mother
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