I’m hoping that you have suggestions for one of our parents whose 10 year-old-daughter is struggling with something that you may have struggled with, too: existential dread or anxiety.
For a child, this can be very scary. This anxiety that arises from the realization that we’re mortal, that we’re going to die, is worse at night. For the concerned mom who would like advice, her child feels as if her thoughts are “attacking her.” She fears bedtime and is “equating falling asleep with death.” She has asked her daughter if it would help to believe in heaven, but her daughter knows what we adults know: you can’t force yourself to believe in something you don’t believe in.
Sleep is, in a sense, a little death, and every night we step up and dive in. When adults struggle with this, we have a drink, read, take a pill, reach out to someone who understands. As we age, we learn to control or push back against our thoughts. But for a child, these thoughts are new and terrifying. It can also be very lonely as sometimes those around us–friends, counselors–have not experienced this.
Do you guys have any suggestions for this mom? How can she help ease her child’s fears at bedtime?