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.”

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.

I’m so Uncool.

I thought I was a cool parent.  In fact I thought my son’s friends thought I was a cool parent.  Not a friend, but a cool parent. There is definitely a difference.  I have my rules and I don’t budge on those, but I also consider myself to have a good sense of humor and a young personality.  Well, over the past week I got a reality check.

For those of you that follow this blog you know that my son, CHASE, has a classmate that continues to pick on him, and being anxious, Chase needs coaching from time to time.  So the other day he told me that this classmate saw him going down the hall to the water fountain.  Knowing that  Chase has a fear of the dark, this boy and his “partner in crime” waited for Chase to get well inside the vacant hall on his way to the water fountain and then the boy turned out the light on Chase.  This caused Chase to slip and fall in the water that they had spilled in the hall and then Chase panicked. The two boys laughed and ran off.  He was so embarrassed that he yelled.  “I’m going to kill whoever did that!”

He told me about the incident and I said, “Part of the reason that the boy continues to pick on you is because you give him the reaction that he is looking for.  Remember bullies are looking for attention.  Why don’t you just say something like, “Whatever dude.” or “Yo, totally uncool.” ” He didn’t respond.  I thought he must be processing this and thinking about when he might use it.

A few days later he told me that another boy in his class told one of his good friends that he was a “know it all”.  His friend told Chase what the other boy said and so I replied, “Well at your age people get jealous of each other easily and maybe that boy is jealous because you are so smart.  If you want to make friends then tone it down a little and don’t always show how much you know.”  Then I said, “Why don’t you say, “Yo man, that’s what I’m good at. You’re probably good at basketball or something right?”  He was quiet again and again I thought I had done a good job and now he was processing what I said.  About thirty seconds went by and he looked at me and said,  “Mom, we don’t talk like that.”  I said, “What?” “You are talking like a surfer guy or something we don’t talk like that.”

I realized that I was out of my league and said, “Well, it’s just an example.  Put it in your own words.”  Later that night I had to laugh at myself.  “I’m not as cool as I thought.”