How JustAnswer Works:
  • Ask an Expert
    Experts are full of valuable knowledge and are ready to help with any question. Credentials confirmed by a Fortune 500 verification firm.
  • Get a Professional Answer
    Via email, text message, or notification as you wait on our site.
    Ask follow up questions if you need to.
  • 100% Satisfaction Guarantee
    Rate the answer you receive.
Ask Dr. Mark Your Own Question
Dr. Mark
Dr. Mark, Psychotherapist
Category: Mental Health
Satisfied Customers: 5220
Experience:  Dr. Mark is a PhD in psychology in private practice
50444359
Type Your Mental Health Question Here...
Dr. Mark is online now
A new question is answered every 9 seconds

my son wont sleep at night he is 12 he has not slept good for

This answer was rated:

my son wont sleep at night he is 12 he has not slept good for 2 years a friend showed him a scary you tube video when he was sleeping over ever since then he will not sleep we have tried to be nice and ask why are you scared we have tried stereo,tv,music,light on and he gets so worked up that he will make himself sick and sit on the toliet. we are at our wits end we have had the same scheudle 830pm bedtime for years dinner at 530 no games after 7, Finally we give up after midnight and tell him to come and sleep in our room he has a little portable matress that we let him sleep on i have a 6 year old and he sleeps fine in his room. we even do a thing called family sleep over every sunday night were they get to sleep in our room. Can you help

Hi! I'll be glad to help you with this issue.

First, let me say I can imagine how distressing this situation must be for you. You are clearly a loving and caring parent. I truly applaud you for your patience and efforts with your son. I've worked with kids and parents in anxiety and night terror issues and I know how frustrating it can be. He's fortunate to have you there for him.

From what you relate, we are looking at a child with a normal developmental history as well as behavioral history till this onset of fears and anxiety at age 10. I once worked with a family where the child saw a movie called Beetlejuice at a friend's house and was traumatized for years until they sought therapy. They weren't as supportive as you are so I'm more confident in your case you'll be able to do this with the techniques below. We worked on methods like the one that I'm recommending you do here with your son.


This is a classic Behavioral technique: He's now in your room and feeling your closeness to soothe himself. I want you to start having a sweatshirt that the main comforting parent wears or a blanket that you have or start having on your bed. It needs to be not your favorite. You'll see why.

You wear that sweatshirt or use that blanket each night for the next 6 nights or so. Then for a few nights you give him the blanket or shirt when he goes to sleep and tell him that it represents both of your love for him. In the morning you take the blanket or shirt and put it back on your bed.

After that, you move his cot to his room. And when he wants to come into your bedroom, you tell him how much you love him, how he's your precious son. You repeat it. You then tell him that it's not healthy as he knows for him to sleep in your room, but that doesn't mean you don't love him. And you want him to know how close you are to him so here's the sweatshirt/blanket that you want him to have next to him or under his pillow that will comfort him and help him know that he's safe. That he's loved. You repeat this whole speech. All in loving comforting tones. And then you do NOT give in. Again, you do NOT give in. You just repeat that the sweatshirt/blanket will help him know how much you love him and that he is safe and that you are all protected.

This is the behavioral program. You have just learned the basic technique of Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT). So make sure to not give in. Remember, you are doing a lot of loving and soothing talk throughout this 2-3 week process. Kids, unless there's an underlying problem, respond to symbolic placement of love and rituals. So be warm and a little theatrical about it.

If this doesn't work after your best efforts, then you need to consider taking him to a psychologist or psychotherapist for help with this. Ask at this school for a highly regarded child therapist. Or ask his pediatrician for a referral.


Okay, I wish you the very best!

My goal is for you to feel like you've gotten Great Service from me and the site. If we need to continue the discussion for that to happen, then please feel free to reply and we'll continue working on this. If the answer has given you the help you need, please remember to give a rating of 5 (Great Service) or 4 (Informative and helpful), or even 3 (Got the job done) button. This will make sure that I am credited for the answer and you are not charged anything more than the deposit you already made by pressing any of these buttons. Bonuses are always appreciated! If I can be of further help with any issue now or in the future, just put "For Dr. Mark" in the front of your new question, and I'll be the one to answer it. All the best, XXXXX XXXXX

Dr. Mark and 3 other Mental Health Specialists are ready to help you
Customer: replied 3 years ago.


When you say firm, do you mean taking away things or just not giving in

The latter, not giving in. I very much recommend not taking away things. That is telling him that HE is bad because he has this problem he doesn't know how to fix. With anxiety issues for children, rewarding the desired behavior is so much more effective. And even if it doesn't get rid of the anxiety, it doesn't harm your relationship with him so that you have more options to try in the future. The middle ground is being firm in following through with what you say.


So, the program is being firm and rewarding the good behavior. You know, I have never seen anything wrong with bribing a kid with a reward when there is a big, very big problem like this, going on. Not big rewards, but a trip to the ice cream store just him and dad or for a hamburger just him and dad or mom to have a "private" celebration of a successful night, for example. Small rewards are great.


I wish you the very best!

My goal is for you to feel like you've gotten Great Service from me and the site. If we need to continue the discussion for that to happen, then please feel free to reply and we'll continue working on this. If the answer has given you the help you need, please remember to give a rating of 5 (Great Service) or 4 (Informative and helpful), or even 3 (Got the job done) button. This will make sure that I am credited for the answer and you are not charged anything more than the deposit you already made by pressing any of these buttons. Bonuses are always appreciated! If I can be of further help with any issue now or in the future, just put "For Dr. Mark" in the front of your new question, and I'll be the one to answer it. All the best, XXXXX XXXXX

Dr. Mark and 3 other Mental Health Specialists are ready to help you
Hi! I'm very glad that I was able to help you with this and thank you for your positive rating. If I can help you in the future in any way, please don't hesitate to let me know.


All the best,
Dr. Mark

Related Mental Health Questions