Mention sleep and children, and every parent in the room, will join in with horror stories of a child who wouldn’t/couldn’t sleep. Few things strike more fear in parents than this one elusive, automatic bodily function, that for some kids seems to be non-existent, or at the least, totally out of whack.
The reasons for children not sleeping, ruling out true medical conditions which are rare, are as varied as the children themselves. Let’s look at a few things you can try to help make bedtime and sleep a more reliable event in your home.
- Develop a routine and stick to it. Starting a bedtime routine when your child is an infant helps her to sleep better and develop good bedtime habits. Your routine can include bath time, reading a book, singing a song, or a few minutes snuggling together. Make the routine fit your family and schedule, but be consistent.
- Let your child know when bedtime is approaching. “Sally, in five minutes you will go take your bath.” This gives her time to adjust to the idea and to finish up whatever she is engaged in. Don’t ask if she wants to take a bath. This can, and often does, result in a resounding “No!” At this point, you have involved yourself in a power struggle that may take a long time to resolve.
- If you want to give your child a choice, make sure you offer choices you can live with. “Sam, do you want to take your bath with your dinosaurs or your ducks tonight?” Offering choices helps the child feel more in control and less resistant.
- Have a cool down time. During this time, turn the TV off, and don’t engage in rowdy or active play. An hour or two before bedtime, guide your child into calming quiet activities.
- Eat early. Try to schedule your evening meal at least two hours before bedtime, if possible. Avoid sugary snacks and liquids after dinner. This helps prevent many trips to the bathroom after bedtime.
- Be calm but firm. If you child gets out of bed, don’t indulge him, laugh at him or yell at him. Gently guide him back to bed and remind him that it is bedtime.
- Address any issues, such as lurking monsters, by providing your child with a flashlight or a spray bottle with water that is labeled Monster Spray.
If you try all of these things and the problem persists, you might want to talk with your pediatrician to rule out any medical causes for sleeplessness.
Once you know there is no cause for concern, you can relax. Children grow up fast, and suddenly you will realise that your kid is already 18 and starting University.