Sleep is important for all of us, particularly children. A good amount of sleep is necessary for healthy physical, emotional, and mental growth. However, at times of stress and confusion, sleep can elude us. Thoughts and anxieties roll around in our minds. Children, just like adults, can have trouble sleeping because of stress. Here’s how to help your child get a good night’s sleep.
Talk to your child. Ask them about what concerns them and what they are feeling. Here are some tips to help you when talking to your child:
- Ask open-ended questions. How does that make you feel? What can I do to help you? What are some activities you think would make you feel better?
- Acknowledge children’s feelings. I can see that this makes you feel scared. Do you want to talk about it some more?
- Calm a child’s worries. Let them know that it is okay to be scared or angry about something. However, you also want to provide reassurance and let them know that you are here to protect them and keep them safe. I understand that this is scary. I am here to keep you safe.
Establish a consistent bedtime routine. Children thrive on routine. Therefore, if we keep their routines consistent, it can help children feel more secure in their lives. Here are some ideas for an effective bedtime routine that will result in a peaceful sleep.
- Remove any electronics from your child’s bedroom. Screen time can have a negative effect on sleep, both the amount of sleep and the quality. Access to electronics should be limited at least an hour before bedtime.
- Bedtime routines should be quiet. And they should take place in the child’s bedroom. This is the perfect time to read stories to your child!
- Create a schedule. List each of the bedtime routine steps. Some children will benefit from a visual schedule that has a picture of each individual step.
- Remember that each child is different. What works for one child may not work for another. Some children may find bath time a relaxing experience, while others become more excited. You may need to move bath time earlier in the evening if a bath tends to energize your child.
- Look at where your child will be sleeping. Are there lots of toys and stuffed animals? If so, these may be distracting and cause your child to play when they should be sleeping. Try limiting the stuffed animals to one or two.
- If your child is afraid to sleep alone, or doesn’t like the dark, make “serenity spray.” Fill a spray bottle with some water and a drop or two of a calming scent, such as lavender. Spray it around the room as part of the bedtime routine.
- If your child calls for you, wait a few seconds before answering. Then, make the wait time longer each time they call for you. Give your child a chance to fall asleep on their own.
- Make sure your child’s bedroom is cool. Don’t feel that your child needs to be bundled up to go to bed.
A good, individualized bedtime routine for each of the children in your house takes time to figure out and establish. Once you have figured out what works best for each child, make sure you stick to it. Consistency is key! Even on the weekends, and when away on vacation, sticking as closely to the bedtime routine as possible will help your child to set their internal body clock. And be patient! You’ll see positive results in the long run.
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