Cognitive Behavioral Therapy was Successful in Helping our son Sleep in his own bed

This is an update to a prior post in which I wrote about our attempts to help our anxious child sleep in his own bed the whole night. For years Chase would sneak into our room while we were asleep and lie down on the floor to fall asleep. He has always had phobias of the dark and what might lurk there in. After years of therapy, sleep studies, and medication that did not help him to accomplish sleeping in his own room, we hired a therapist named David Shobe to come to our house and use Cognitive Behavioral Therapy with us. I will tell you that I was skeptical but hopeful at the same time. After all, we had tried almost everything else. With age Chase was experiencing problems with attention in school and problems socially due to his inability to get enough sleep.

David asked us to develop a chart with days of the week on it.  We began by asking Chase to spend time in his room with the door shut for five minutes at a time and then gradually increased the time. Each time he was able to accomplish part of the goal without panicking, we would put a sticker on the chart and after he earned five stickers he got a reward. In the beginning it was tough. There were times when Chase would escalate to the point of throwing things at his door because he was so scared.  Having David as our coach made my husband and I feel more confident that we were helping our child and Chase was able to hate the therapist instead of us. This was important to us because Chase was sensitive and believed that if we were asking him to do something that was incredibly scary for him, we must not love him. Having David as our coach allowed us to say that we were following doctors orders to help him.

As Chase’s time in his room began to increase without panic and we were able to maintain our firm stance, Chase began to get used to being alone in his room at night. He began to gain confidence in his ability to succeed at staying in his room and coping with his fear. After two months he was still practicing and improving we had one or two successful nights where he was able to stay in his room for the whole night. The rewards increased with the accomplishments. Chase earned his black belt in Tae Kwon Do and then a few days later he said, “I’m a black belt now. I can do this.” Something finally clicked and right before Christmas Chase slept five nights in his room by himself. We were thrilled! He had finally done it. He has continued to sleep in his own room ever since.

Sleeping in his own room has dramatically increased Chase’s confidence.  He said, “Mom, I don’t ever want to sleep on your floor again.”

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Cognitive Behavioral Therapy was Successful in Helping Our Son Sleep in His Own Bed

This is an update to a prior post in which I wrote about our attempts to help our anxious child sleep in his own bed the whole night. For years Chase would sneak into our room while we were asleep and lie down on the floor to fall asleep. He has always had phobias of the dark and what might lurk there in. After years of therapy, sleep studies, and medication that did not help him to accomplish sleeping in his own room, we hired a therapist named David Shobe to come to our house and use Cognitive Behavioral Therapist with us. I will tell you that I was skeptical but hopeful at the same time. After all we had tried almost everything else. With age Chase was experiencing problems with attention in school and problems socially due to his inability to get enough sleep.

David asked us to develop a chart with days of the week on it.  We began by asking Chase to spend time in his room with the door shut for five minutes at a time and then gradually increased the time. Each time he was able to accomplish part of the goal without panicking, we would put a sticker on the chart and after he earned five stickers he got a reward. In the beginning it was tough. There were times when Chase would escalate to the point of throwing things at his door because he was so scared.  Having David as our coach made my husband and I feel more confident that we were helping our child and Chase was able to hate the therapist instead of us. This was important to us because Chase was sensitive and believed that if we were asking him to do something that was incredibly scary for him, we must not love him. Having David as our coach allowed us to say that we were following doctors orders to help him.

As Chase’s time in his room began to increase without panic we were able to maintain our firm stance Chase began to get used to being alone in his room at night. He began to gain confidence in his ability to succeed at staying in his room and coping with his fear. After two months he was still practicing and improving we had one or two successful nights where he was able to stay in his room for the whole night. The rewards increased with the accomplishments. Chase earned his black belt in Tae Kwon Do and then a few days later he said, “I’m a black belt now. I can do this.” Something finally clicked and right before Christmas Chase slept five nights in his room by himself. We were thrilled! He had finally done it. He has continued to sleep in his own room ever since.

Sleeping in his own room has dramatically increased Chase’s confidence.  He said, “Mom, I don’t ever want to sleep on your floor again.”

Being the Parent of an Anxious Child is Tough

I didn’t realize how much it bothered me until my body could no longer hold the emotions inside. I was just washing the dishes and the thought popped into my head that I was unable to make my child’s life a brighter place. I felt so helpless and the tears came like waves down my cheeks. My chest welled up with the pressure that needed to be released. I had been holding on to the feelings for so long so that I could maintain a façade of normalcy. All the while feeling scared inside. Anticipating the day that would come when I would have to face the truth that our son was no longer able to live a normal life.

I’ve been acting strong, telling him things like, “Don’t let anyone else tell you things about yourself that are not true. We know what we’ve got and we’ve got a fantastic kid. We know that one day you are going to be happy and successful and I feel lucky everyday that I have a son like you.” But he still feels so inadequate. He still believes it when his friends tell him that he is terrible at basketball or that they don’t believe that he is cool enough to hang out with them. He tells us almost daily that the kids at school don’t like him. He is hanging on by a thread right now and I don’t know what else to do to help him.  The most frustrating part for me is that I know this is out of his control. He is actually a very handsome child who has just earned a black belt in Tae Kwon Do and is an honor student.  He should be feeling terrific about himself, but he is not able to. Why?

We’ve been to therapists and doctors and sleep studies, and tests and I still worry about him everyday. I just hope he will be able to hang on until he graduates from high school. To me he is such a sweet, kind and funny child.  I get so angry that his mind tells him a different story!

It is so draining on me to have to work so hard to help him to live a normal life.

All that said, “I am grateful for the challenge of raising such a complex child. I am grateful for every day that he is in my life.”

Childhood Phobia Confronted

Anxiety disorders can be mild, moderate or severe.  Some people have a mild form of anxiety called social anxiety and they are called shy by most people.  Other people have a moderate form of anxiety and they ruminate about things, occasionally lose sleep due to worries or lose their appetite due to worries.  Then there’s Chase. He has the type of anxiety called a phobia.  Phobias are usually a severe form of anxiety in which a person has an irrational fear of something, someone or some place.  Because of their fear, they either avoid people places or things associated with that thing or they try to get something such as comfort or security from other people to help them deal with it.

Chase has Phasmophobia, which is a fear of ghosts and Achluophobia, which is a fear of darkness. In addition Chase has a sleep disorder in which he falls asleep but doesn’t stay asleep.  When I started to recognize that Chase had these problems we sought counseling to help him.  Over the years, we tried moving his sleeping bag out of our room bit by bit, redecorating his room so that it looked really soothing and happy, trying to motivate him with a reward system, taking away nintendos or t.v. time, and more.  He continues to sneak in our room once we are asleep and lay on the floor until he falls asleep. When he was younger he had asthma so bad that our doctor told us that we couldn’t force him to stay in his room because he would scream and cry so bad that it would trigger his asthma to the point that he couldn’t breath.

Well, we brought in the back up troops a few weeks ago.  We found out about a terrific counselor, named David Shobe, who works out of people’s homes with families.  Kind of like “The Nanny”, but no television crews and no British accent. After gathering enough information from us, David determined that Chase copes with his fear by avoiding the dark and avoiding things that cause him to think about ghosts. He then taught us that in order for Chase to cope with his phobia on his own he would have to confront the thing that he is afraid of on a regular basis until he is able to feel comfortable being face to face with them.  It wasn’t something that we hadn’t thought of but David’s support and coaching was invaluable in this case.  He asked Chase to explain to him what happens when he jumps into a pool full of cold water and Chase told him that his body acclimated to the temperature of the pool after he had been in it for a while.  Then David, asked Chase what happened to his body when he got out of the pool and then jumped back in and Chase again explained the process of acclamation.  This proved to be invaluable in Chase’s ability to interpret his behavior and in his ability to change his behavior.  He was able to make the connection that the longer he could stay in his room the more acclimated he would become and eventually he would not mind sleeping in his room.

David advised us to come up with a reward chart to help Chase to reach his goals.  He told us to start out asking Chase to stay in his room for ten minutes four or five times a day. He also told us that instant gratification and praise was critical to Chase’s success.  He reminded us that criticism and yelling were only going to produce more anxiety in Chase and so it was counterproductive to do these things.  We were supposed to sit down with Chase and come up with a reward that he could achieve after he earned nine stickers on his chart.  For every ten minutes he spent in his room with the door shut he would get a sticker and once he earned nine stickers he would get a reward.  For his reward Chase decided that he wanted scary Halloween decorations.

We set off on our new project with Chase.  I made a chart and bought some stickers and as soon as I got it set up, Chase’s younger sister Mary saw it and said, “I want to play too.”  I knew we had to make a chart for her also.  Mary is the child that really doesn’t have anything that she really needs to improve so it took us a while to come up with a plan for her to exercise for five minutes and that would earn her a sticker. The reward that she wanted was a new pair of TOMS. Now this was getting expensive, but I knew we needed to help our son because he told us that he thought it would help his self-esteem if he learned how to sleep in his own room.

The first few times that we asked Chase to go to his room with the door shut he was reluctant but he did it and he was pleased when he got a sticker.  We purposely started in the morning when it was light outside so that he could build some confidence in himself that he could indeed stay in his room with the door shut.

Well, the day did turn into night just like usual and Chase began to get nervous going places without his sister or another person in the house near him.  I began to wonder how he was going to react to being shut in his room while it was dark outside.  After pizza, homework and a shower it was time to test out the night-time shut in.

When I told him that it was time to do his ten minutes in his room he said,  “No way, I’m not doing that! I hate this rule.  This is a stupid rule.”  Thank goodness we had David to blame.  We told him that it was part of our plan with David and that he was going to have to do it or else he would get something taken away.  After a lot of encouragement he finally conceded, but once he was inside his room and the door was shut the drama began.  He started escalating, which we were warned about and prepared for. He started yelling that we were stupid, that we didn’t love him, that we were traumatizing him, that we were the meanest parents ever, and on and on. Then he began to throw things at the door. I don’t know what they were but they were heavy things.  I continued to keep the door locked and at the end of the ten minutes his dad and I praised him and gave him a sticker and he pouted and ignored us.

The next day we did the whole routine again and when night-time came he protested a little bit but he took some things into his room to comfort himself and he lasted the whole ten minutes without escalating.  We have been doing this for about three weeks and he is already able to spend thirty minutes in his room with the door shut before bedtime!  Our house is going to be the spookiest Halloween house in the neighborhood but it will be worth it when he is able to sleep through the night in his own bed.

I hope this will help anyone else out there that has a child with a phobia.

Small Victories Are Still Sweet

It had been a long day.  I worked longer than I expected and was late picking up my kids from school.  I could see the disappointment in their faces when I arrived and I felt guilty for being late again.  They got into the car and my son, Chase, told me that he had the worse day ever. He told me about several disappointments that he faced that day, but it was the incident that was his biggest challenge that day that caused a wave of relief to wash over my body. He told me that another boy had told him to shut up and then had held Chase’s hands together so that he couldn’t fight back. Chase told me that he kicked the other boy in the (jewels), and it caused the boy to fold over and say “No!” 

I wanted to cheer. Now, I know violence is not the best way to handle violence, but this child, this same child that kicked another boy in the package, could barely look this boy in the face a year ago.  Being anxious, Chase has always had a hard time standing up to bullies. We’ve been encouraging him to fight back since we learned that his gentle spirit was taken advantage of.  Chase would always say, “I don’t want to hurt anyone.”  On the one had I felt proud of him for being one of the “good guys” but on the other hand I was so concerned for him that I would lose sleep wondering when he was going to get crushed. His vulnerability made me too protective of him.

 That night, after he told me he fought back, I had the best nights sleep and I realized that I didn’t have to be so protective of Chase anymore. I realized that he was not as vulnerable as he used to be and I felt a small victory for him. Since that day the other boy hasn’t bothered Chase. In fact he treats him with respect. It’s weird the way some boys hand out badges. Luckily for us our son has his own badges. In fact he will earn his black belt in Tae Kwon Do this year. It’s been a long journey but he’s finally turning the corner. Yea!