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

   By: Dr. Noel Swanson.

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, you need to understand where the fear is coming from. Don't ridicule your child by caustic remarks, such as ?don't be such a baby.? Also, don't get into an argument about the problem with your child. This will only undermine your child's confidence rather than solve the problem. So, you have to begin by recognizing the problem. You have to admit that your child is probably as anxious to solve it as you are. Hence, think calmly and plan a strategic approach to help him.

As with most fears, the easiest way to work on this is by using a process of gradual desensitization. Often the problem is not just sleeping away from home, but sleeping away from Mom - to the extent that going in her own bed is a challenge!

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.

It is advisable to talk to your child and encourage him to tell you honestly why he doesn't want to go on a sleep-over with a friend he likes. If he tells you what kind of a sleep over he won't mind going to, make a note of it. And, you plan only that kind of a sleep-over for him. If he really has fun on a friend's birthday party, or going to camp in the summer, he will get over the fear.

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.

This is the general framework of the plan; you will need to adapt it to your own circumstances. After chalking out a rough plan, you can go to the present and look at the very first step. If it is facing opposition, you can break the first step into smaller parts. For instance, if your child refuses to move away from your room, you can coax him to sleep in the hallway on the floor just outside your bedroom door.

Decide on a starting date. Decide also on how you will celebrate success. Remember, make each step an easy one. Consolidate each step until she is ready and willing to move on to the next one (enticed, if necessary, by the promise of rewards earnt).

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.

It can take some time to work through the steps, but if you do it gradually and systematically, and combine it all with plenty of encouragement and rewards, you should be able to get there.

Need some ideas for handling your children's behaviors? Why not take a look at Dr. Noel Swanson's children's behavior newsletter. His book, The GOOD CHILD Guide, is also one of the best available. Visit here for more parenting articles. Don't reprint this exact article. Instead, reprint a free unique content version of this same article.

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