How to Ease Childhood Anxiety
Starting at just shy of two-years-old, my oldest daughter started having trouble falling asleep alone. In addition, she would, at times, wake up from a full-blown night terror.
In order to preserve some sense of decent sleep, we purchased her a queen size bed so one of us could lay next to her comfortably until she fell asleep. As time passed, this seemed to improve as we gradually moved bit by bit from her room at bedtime. First, we sat next to the bed, then moved to the wall of her room, then at the doorway, and so on, until we could lay her down and simply say goodnight and walk down the hall.
In the years following, she has mostly had great nights. However, every once in awhile, we see phases where the nighttime routine becomes much more difficult and complicated. We have utilized night lights, sound machines, music, and an Amazon Alexa to communicate between her room and ours.
Even though on occasion she would have a worry prior to sleep, or a bad dream in the middle of the night, we felt that we were on a better track and she was passing through another phase. However, recently she was given a project to do at school during the counselor's visit to her classroom.
Each child was taught about what it means to worry and was instructed to draw a picture about what he/she worries about. The counselor sent a message home to the parents informing them of the project and encouraging an open discussion with their child regarding his/her drawing.
As I came across my daughter's drawing, I was not surprised, but saddened still by what she drew. She drew a picture of herself lying in her bed at night with the sentence, "I worry in bed at night."
After showing this to my husband, who shares her similar anxiety and over-thinking nature, he began to research ways to make her room somewhere she wants to be at night, that would bring her calm and reassurance.
That next morning, we sat down with her and asked her how her room could be somewhere more comforting to her at night. Her response was simple, she requested a big photo of our family on the wall across from our bed. In addition, we talked to her about what we researched as well.
It was recommended that we put a small fish tank in her room. The tank makes a peaceful humming and bubbling noice, has a warm night light, and allows her to care for something more vulnerable than her in the room.
At each step, we are finding ways to ease her worries while still keeping realistic expectations of her growing older and finding her own ways to calm herself. In the end, we find it most important to keep an open line of communication between us and her. We want her to always feel welcome to share her concerns with us and work together to figure out what can work best to help her.