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11 Year Old Dreads Nights and Follow-Up on Dreams/ David McMillian, LPC, LMFT
Posted by: admin
- February 23, 2009
Monday February 23, 2009 Column
My 11 year old daughter is having some puzzling difficulties recently that we think may need some attention.For the past several weeks, she has been crying herself to sleep every night because she is having thoughts about dying and is scared that she’s not going to wake up. She’s a very vivacious and sociable girl with lots of friends. Her grades in school are excellent, but going to sleep every night has become our nightmare. She’s an only child and I’m wondering if this is a normal phase that kids go through, and how I can best help her through these issues. Should I assure her that this is normal and that it will pass?
Dreading Our Nights
First let me say to you that it is not normal for an 11 year old girl like you’ve described to suddenly start crying herself to sleep at night for fear of dying. I think you are 100% on target in saying your daughter’s symptoms do need immediate attention, and I would urge you to arrange an appointment with a mental health therapist as soon as possible.
These anxieties and fears are certainly something that is troubling her and needs addressing, so I don’t think telling her that it’s normal and will pass is going to be much assurance for her. Do however assure her that you will help her in every way that you can to feel safe and comfortable at home and especially at night when it’s time to sleep.
You know, we are most vulnerable when we sleep, because obviously our conscious mind is at rest.Many of us find that upon waking we have a greater need for information and news, because we want to know what’s happened in the world while we’ve been sleeping.
Perhaps starting with a visit to your daughter’s pediatrician would be a good first step. In addition, I would inquire whether something might have happened recently which has worried and frightened your daughter which she has not talked about for some reason. Instead of telling her that her fears are normal, you need to ask her what she is worrying about. You might also check with her teachers to find out how she’s doing in school. I would be interested in whether teachers have noticed any changes in her behavior, as well as how she is currently doing grade-wise.
My questions would also include whether anyone close to her has recently gotten sick or has died.You mentioned that she is a very sociable young lady, so I would also be curious as to whether any of her friends or acquaintances has experienced a recent loss, which may have been discussed with her. Given the age, I would also wonder whether a television show or movie may have triggered this crisis.
The other issues that might be considered are hormones, which is a “normal” growth and development occurrence during this age range. If it is the onset of her menstrual cycle, you need to be reassuring, even if you have been in the past. Children can get some peculiar ideas in their heads even when parents have been open and honest in preparing their kids.
Of course, if she’s able to tell you what is happening and it seems to fit then it may solve itself either by your reassurance or by you taking some action if you find that there has been cause. I hope these ideas will at least help until you can get in to see her doctor and a counselor.
I read your article in "The Times" last week and found it to be very interesting; in fact I forwarded it to my daughter, a non-subscriber. I would point out one thing, however, in relation to dreams. The lady inquired as to the "why" of her vivid dreams, and your discussion of dreams was very accurate, but it did not cover the fact that some drugs, even prescription drugs, can produce vivid dreams as a side effect of their intended use. These are not classified as hallucinations, just dreams, and often very vivid, according to the literature. I enjoy your newspaper articles, and also your Saturday morning radio program which I often catch in my car. The fact that your work is Christian-related is an added bonus.
A Registered Pharmacist
Thank you so much for adding to our knowledge about dreams.You are absolutely on target that vivid dreaming can be caused or enhanced by medication.I do think it important however to add that all of our dreams come from our individual unconscious minds, so whether we’re taking medication or not, they can still be “grist for the interpretation mill.”As I was reading your letter, I started thinking about a plunger.Perhaps some medications act similar to the way a plunger can act upon a drain, and brings more “stuff” to the surface. In any event, I really appreciate your comments.
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