A KID’S ROOM IS HIS OR HER REFUGE
Do your kids ever shout out at night because they’re scared of the ‘monster’ under the bed or in the wardrobe? Do they ever ask to sleep with a light on or ask whether they can leave their room and come and sleep with you? All that, and much else that parents are aware of, are signs of one single thing: that the kids don’t feel safe in their room or at home. This feeling of insecurity among kids may even appear cute at first sight, but in reality defines how the child’s personality develops, affecting their self-confidence and behaviour overall.
Looking at it more practically, a child whose sleep is disturbed and who avoids sleeping in his/her own bed because he/she is afraid, will complain more, be more tired, find it harder to concentrate, be more aggressive and generally be more difficult. Parents are also forced to interrupt their sleep to calm the child down, so they end up tired and worn out, starting the day stressed -or at least if they don’t start off stressed it won’t be long before it hits- and find their patience wears thin more easily.
For kids, both their room and home should be a safe refuge; their own personal fortress, the place where they can feel that no one can harm them. Although the majority of their fears and insecurities are caused by their own imagination, it is often small practical, tangible things that can calm kids down and gradually allay their fears. For example, fitting an alarm and activating it so the child can see it and knows what is happening can quite literally change the child’s psychology, making him/her feel more secure, safe in the knowledge that no one can now invade his or her personal space. In addition to practical steps like that, psychologists assert that what we need to do to make kids feel safer and sleep well in their own beds is:
- To be clear about whether or not we allow them to sleep with us. Sending mixed messages (that one night they can sleep with you but another night they can’t) confuses kids, reinforcing their sense of insecurity and allowing them the scope to continue to demand to sleep with you.
- To make sure the room is pleasant for them. It’s good to let the kids express themselves in their own space and to determine the layout of things so that they feel the room is theirs. As parents, you can intervene to make sure that the space is safe, that windows and doors all lock properly, etc. but if your kids want all their toys close to the bed because they believe the toys will keep them safe, for example, then there is no reason to take the toys away.
- To discuss their fears openly. At some random time, when your kids are calm, sit them down and listen to what’s on their mind and what makes them feel insecure at home. It could be some noise that they misinterpret, a story they heard wrongly or just a reaction to what is going on outside (which kids can pick up on through their parent’s behaviour). As we said, what’s important is to put in place some procedure for calming the kids down which should be carried out systematically with your kids for a couple of weeks until they become convinced that they can actually sleep safely. It can be something simple like checking together that the windows are locked, or setting the alarm, or just checking under the bed that everything’s ok.