Sleep, sleep, how I long for thee. Our seven year old crawled into bed with us at 4am last night because the family cat decided to use her head as a pillow. As a result, here I am typing this with my eyeballs raw and my brain frazzled. How can I be expected to sensible construct sentence be able?
Children’s sleep issues are among the most challenging things parents deal with. The gradual wearing down of parent’s resilience can have dire consequences on just about everything from our relationships to our health.
There are different elements to sleep issues: a) problems getting your child to go to bed, b) getting them to stay asleep, c) kids waking up inconceivably early.
Here are some ideas if you’re facing problem a), getting your child to go to bed in the first place:
Repetition – Try to have the same routine around bedtime every night including weekends. This can be difficult with busy lives and the unpredictability of family life, but children often respond well to knowing exactly what to expect. The routine might be bath-time, pyjamas, quiet time, story, lullaby, lights out, sleep, for example.
Bribe them – Use star charts resulting in a much wanted treat. I must admit this did not work for us as our daughter discovered our stash of stars and put them on the chart herself. Ah.
Empower them – When our daughters went through periods of being scared of the dark or feeling uneasy at bedtime (these are perfectly normal, primal fears if you think about it) we made them nice smelling room sprays with lavender and neroli oil in them that they could squirt onto their pillows. We also used dream catchers to help to shift their mind-set about fears and ‘bad dreams’.
Acknowledge their fears – it is perfectly normal and very human to be afraid of the dark and to want the comfort of others as we fall asleep. However tired you are, try not to be dismissive of your child’s fears. If they need a nightlight, there are wonderful ones on the market. My own daughter likes to hear the sound of me or my partner pottering in the kitchen next door to her room as she falls asleep, so I save tidying up the evening meal dishes until then. Think about what might work in your family.
Be duller than a dull, grey, miserable, depressing winter’s day – Some kids just hate to feel they are missing out on anything interesting so make sure it’s not too exciting in the house as they fall asleep i.e. bedtime is not the ideal moment for your partner to practice their bagpipes.
Retreat gradually – if you have a little one who wants you to cuddle them while they fall asleep, you can very gradually withdraw over a week or so. For example, one night, just sit with them and hold their hand, the next night, sit just outside their bedroom door and so forth. The idea is to give them the security that you are there, very gradually withdrawing until they are able to fall asleep without you wrapped around them.
Header Image Credit : Amanda Truss
If this article makes no sense, blame the family cat. I’m off for a nap.