It’s around 3:30 A.M., and while most are sound asleep, you’re awakened by the unmistakable call of your little one. That unnerving sound jolts you from your bed, with a fear of the unknown. First it’s “Daaadeeee…Da Da…Daddy” “Ma Ma…MaaaMa…Mommy”, followed by a piercing scream that you never knew existed in that tiny body. For those preparing for or new to parenthood, it’s hard to describe the feeling of helplessness you feel at that moment. What is it that drives such a cry? Sometimes it’s colic, an ear infection, teething, upset stomach, fever or just a bad dream. But when it’s none of the above, and there’s no other elements of sickness or physical pain, it could point to one simple thing; a separation anxiety panic attack. The sense of abandonment and isolation for a child is a very real occurrence, and they communicate the fear from those emotions by screaming cries for mommy and daddy to come rescue them. According to kidshealth.org, the timing of separation anxiety can vary widely from child to child. Some kids may go through it later, between 18 months and 2½ years of age. Some may never experience it. And for others, certain life stresses can trigger feelings of anxiety about being separated from a parent: a new child care situation or caregiver, a new sibling, moving to a new place, or tension at home.
Now you’re off in the dead of the night, dazed and confused, without a clue what to do. So what options do you have to cure your child’s separation anxiety, without breaking the rules and transporting him into your bed? Well, first allowing your child to sleep with you for one night is not totally against the rules, but you do risk establishing a pattern of behavior if it becomes the norm. The other concern with allowing your child in your bed, according to kidshealth.org, is accidental death and possible link to sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS). Taking the below steps will help calm your little ones fears, and provide a soothing environment for sleeping through the remainder of the night.
1. Calmly speak to your child to reassure them that they’re not alone. Maybe read their favorite bed time story.
2. Change their diaper or pull up. A fresh pamper is, well a fresh pamper.
3. Using a bedtime lotion, massage their back, arms and legs, as this will calm their nerves and settle the anxiety caused from the panic attack. There are great massage tips in the book Baby Massage, by Nicki Bainbridge found at Amazon.
4. Make sure the temperature in the room is comfortable, and the bedding isn’t too hot.
5. Put in their favorite bedtime cd to play after your child has calmed down a bit.
Once tranquility has been restored, leave them with a kiss on the cheek. If all else fails plead for sanity and don’t forget the option to bribe with money and sweets in the morning.
Note: You can find several brands of the bedtime lotion and cd locally, at places like Babies ‘R’ Us, Target, BuyBuy Baby and Wal-Mart.