My daughter had a friend sleep over Friday night, and this sweet girl had an anxiety meltdown when it was time for bed. She wanted her mom. Although I know that it is important for kids to be a part of the decision making process about their lives (and I was very willing to bring her home if necessary), I convinced her to stay. For the sake of making this easier, we can call the child Leah and mom April. It will be easier.
You see, Leah wasn’t alone in our house, though she may have felt alone. We are a house full of anxiety meltdowns, and they happen on a regular basis.
I knew that her rational mind really wanted the sleepover. She had been super excited about it. I also knew April really wanted her to get through it. There had been some failed attempts previously.
When she started crying, I sat down next to her on the floor and just waited till she could hear me, all the while gently rubbing her back. It’s hard to know whether physical contact will comfort or escalate the situation. With my kids, I can touch them but anyone else trying would likely cause a major eruption.
Eventually there was enough silence between sobs that I could be heard. “Leah, you were really excited earlier, and I know that we can get through tonight if you really want to. Do you still want this?”, and she nodded. “But you miss your mom?”, and another nod. “Okay. Let’s give it one hour – get ready for bed and I will tuck you in. You can choose which pillow you like best and what lights we leave on, and if you aren’t asleep in an hour, we call your mom. Does that work?”, and a nod.
I washed her face, found some toothpaste she’d use, and tucked her into bed. She was still crying, but more calmly. My kids hovered, wanting to help but knowing all too well that might not work. I checked on her twice in the next half hour, and the second time she was asleep.
In the morning, I asked Leah if she was glad she’d stayed, and she was. While she was eating breakfast, we all sat at the table with her, and we talked about the things that make us anxious. My Sana’s list would’ve gone on all day if I had allowed it. I think it made her feel better to know there was a lack of judgment, and that she didn’t have to hide her feelings. I got a nice hug when she left for the day, and April said she doesn’t offer those often.