Saturday 21 September 2019

Dear David Coleman: Our 6-year-old wakes almost every night since a recent nightmare

Photo posed
Photo posed
David Coleman

David Coleman

Q Our six-year-old daughter woke in the middle of the night recently and was absolutely convinced there were spiders all over the room and crawling all over her. She was really terrified and, since then, she still wakes every night, having previously been a great sleeper. She is moving into first class in September and we wondered if this is worrying her? We have tried talking to her and explaining that it is not really happening, but nothing works.

David replies: Unfortunately, parents' rationale rarely gets through to children when they are anxious. So no matter how you try to explain that spiders are not all over the room, she may struggle to believe you until the anxiety has passed.

So rather than focusing on reason, focus instead on her worries. Try to help her make sense of any worries during the daytime. Do speak with her about school or about friends or any other potential sources of anxiety in an empathetic way that shows her you can understand that these things can be worrisome.

Then, with regard to the night times, you will probably have to continue to be available to help soothe her if she wakes up for a while longer. However, if you are addressing the source of her anxiety, then you should find that her sleep will return to its old, non-disrupted pattern in a short space of time.

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