Q MY four-year-old daughter has, in recent weeks, become extremely anxious and distressed at night time. She has recently returned to preschool, I am back in work, and my husband was back at his office in Dublin. This seems to have been the source of her anxiety. She was worried about him being in Dublin and getting coronavirus. Initially, this only happened on nights when he was going to Dublin the following day. She has expressed fears about the dark and spiders. I would greatly appreciate any suggestions or advice you may have to offer.
David replies: It sounds like your daughter has had lots of changes in the last little while, any or all of which may have unsettled her. It is very common for disruption in children's sleep to be the first indicator that they are unsettled more generally. Add to that any worries about her dad getting coronavirus (or bringing it home) and her distress at night time makes sense.
I'd suggest that lots of empathy and nurturing are the best ways to show her you might understand her worries and that you are able to "mind" her. Random hugs and snuggles are great.
You could use bedtime stories to show, allegorically, how other people or characters cope with worries. Letting her sleep with you, or staying with her while she falls asleep, will also give her great security.
While this may create a habit for her, you can wean her off it in due course when her routines have settled.