My 6 year old daughter has severe anxiety. Is it okay to let her sleep with us?
My 6 year old daughter has severe SPD and also anxiety. She slept with us for years. Finally about 8 months ago we got her upstairs in bunk beds with her older sister. The transition was not without struggles but was still an overall success. During the last few months she has been in a rapid decline with her SPD. As you know this also can, and does, affect every area of her life. So right now everything with her is pretty out of whack. In her world, I'm sure, everything feels out of control and everything causes stress and anxiety. She has always been a very poor sleeper. On a good night she wakes frequently, talks and walks in sleep, and has many bad dreams. Really the only time any of us get any quality sleep, if that's what you want to cal it, is when she sleeps with us. She says she NEEDS me. We are just so conflicted with what to do in this situation which we understand is far from normal. When she doesn't sleep, the SPD symptoms rapidly take control because she is just not strong enough, or old enough, to cope yet. I do not however, want to make the situation worse. We get so much input from so many, but no one understands her particular situation. Is it wrong of us to allow her a little piece of peace in her otherwise out of control little world?
Yes, it is. Her needs should not disrupt your lives to the extent you describe. Hopefully you have discussed this with her pediatrician and psychiatrist. Children with sensory issues and sleep disorders need to function in a world much like nut allergic children will live in a nut filled world and learn to cope. At six there are limited coping skills but your behavior and reassurance will be critical to her learning those skills. The more as a parent you acknowledge her "out of control world" the more you empower it to be so for her. As a parent form a team with school, the school nurse, your pediatrician and psychiatrist to have a uniform approach to sleep behavior and how to handle the bad nights and the day that follows in school. Perhaps a rest period in the nurses office may get her back on her feet for class. Sleep hygiene is important which your pediatrician can discuss.
Best wishes in solving a tough parent problem, but this is where both partners and siblings need to be strong, loving, forgiving, but not become entrapped by the condition.
Wayne Yankus, MD, FAAP
expert panelist: pediatrics