Ending Bedtime Battles – Top Tips To Help Kids Sleep Soundly
It can be difficult for some children to wind down at bedtime, and some will also struggle to sleep peacefully through the night. Whether they are scared of the dark or too keyed up after a busy day to wind down, a few relaxation techniques as part of an established bedtime routine can help them learn to self-manage their natural sleep requirements.
A gentle predictable routine
The time-honoured “bath, bed, book” is a popular routine for good reason. The bath is a great transition before bedtime, then pyjamas and brushed teeth signal the finish of the day, with a peaceful bedtime story as the last step before turning out the light. This is also lovely one-to-one time between parent and child, so keep it gentle and warm, and give yourself time so you don’t feel rushed. Let your child ask questions about the story or even tell you some anecdote about the day.
For kids who are struggling to relax or settle at bedtime, you can try a simple meditation routine. Tell your child to lie down flat on the bed and close their eyes. In a low gentle voice, talk them through the process of breathing deeply and focusing on a different body part to feel it relax. Pay special attention to the shoulders and the stomach because they both tense up from stress or anxiety. Continue talking until you can hear that their breathing has naturally slowed and they are making the transition into sleep. When you make this part of the regular routine, you can also encourage your kids to try running through the relaxation technique independently – although of course, they will generally prefer you to work through it with them!
If your child is nervous and distracted by the dark, there are a few strategies you can use to make the dark more peaceful and friendly. A lava lamp makes a great nightlight because it is not bright and you your child to look into the gentle movement as they fall asleep. Toddlers and babies may respond better to a musical light show, with familiar musical tunes playing as a light show is displayed on the ceiling.
Many children choose that last “good night” moment to confide in you about a particular worry, such as a “mean kid” at school or a forgotten homework task. Acknowledge the worry and give some gentle reassurance, but don’t start tackling the issue right at bedtime. Tell your child that it is better to tackle problems in the morning so you will discuss the issue again then and come up with a solution together.
For children who can’t articulate their worries, a support toy such as a Worry Doll can be available to slip under the pillow. Traditionally, you whisper your worry to a worry doll, who will take the problem away.
Dealing with irrational fears
After you have left the room, you might be called back to deal with ghosts or monsters or vampires. Personally, I have always dealt with vampires by leaving an opened jar of minced garlic in the room for five minutes – that’s usually long enough before I’m called back and told that the vampires have gone away.
If your child is persistently fearful alone in their room at night, try siting next to your child on the bed and look around the room – you will often find the origin of the fear right in front of you. Sometimes familiar toys on the shelf can look strange and threatening; or there could be a tree branch knocking against the window. When you know what is triggering the anxiety, you can fix it.
Most children go through phases of struggling to sleep for various reasons – whatever the central cause, it is an important life skill to know how to set your worries aside and settle yourself to sleep. With a regular routine and a few simple relaxation tools, your child will soon learn to settle peacefully at bedtime.