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Two Year Old Having Panic Attacks at Bedtime

Question

I have a 2.5 year old girl who has never had a sleeping issue in her in life. She has always napped for 3-3.5 hours in the afternoon and around 10-11 hours at night. She transitioned into a big bed at 2 years old and still never had an issue until a week ago. One random day, she started to panic about taking a nap and that night the same thing happened. This same week, she had her first ear infection that was horrendous according to her pediatrician. Since then, she begins to panic about going to bed and will only sleep on a pallet on her floor. While I do think the ear infection compounded the situation, I don't know if this is a separation anxiety issue and how to handle it. I can usually calm her down by reading books, but as the books nears the end, the panic ensues. Any suggestions?

Answer

The sudden appearance of random fears at bedtime is common in young children. While the ear infection may have precipitated it, we will never know for sure. Also, the more you try to talk her out of her panic, the worse her fear will become. As I see it, you have already handled the situation. Continue your bedtime routine and let her sleep on the pallet in her room. You mentioned that this is how she likes to sleep now. Read her a book, say prayers with her and kiss her goodnight. She will eventually tire of the uncomfortable pallet and eventually want her big girl bed back. Ignore the panic by staying calm yourself. The less attention you give the fears the faster they will go away. Be consistent in your routine so she knows what's coming next . She IS sleeping and IN her room so it really doesn't matter if it's the floor or her bed. Just a bump in the road that she will eventually forget and move back to her more comfortable bed.

Lisa Dorner
Certified Parent Leadership Coach

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