Bed time can be a nightmare for parents (and children, come to that). Little ones can often point blank refuse to go to bed at all, or they might head off willingly only to pop up in the living room every 10 minutes asking for a drink, a snack, a story, to be tucked in… They might even go to bed and get to sleep but wake in the night and climb into their parents’ bed. These behaviours are common, but that’s not to say they should be allowed. In fact, without intervention, they will just get worse and they will have a detrimental effect on your child’s health.
Losing out on just a few hours of sleep is a big issue for children. Sleep deprivation has been linked to a variety of different problems (some of which will manifest immediately, others will take their time to be seen). These include lower academic standards and abilities, as well as general behaviour problems. They are no different to adults in this respect – you know how unproductive and sluggish you feel when you haven’t sleep well and that is how the child will be feeling too; they just don’t have the words or emotions to express it well.
If you are having problems at bedtime, here are some ideas that can help.
What’s The Problem?
If your child really does have difficulty sleeping despite the rules and the routine, there could be another issue going on. Encourage your child to talk about their problems so that you can come up with a solution together. There could be a variety of issues at play, so getting to the bottom of what’s wrong and putting a plan together to tackle it is essential if you want your child to sleep well.
Perhaps your little one doesn’t know how to self-soothe, or maybe they get bored lying in bed. Perhaps they are uncomfortable and it’s time to get some new furniture for your kids. They could have seen something on TV that worried them, or heard their parents arguing. Their imaginations might be running riot and they believe there is a monster in the cupboard or under the bed.
Have Bed Time Rules
If you create a set of bed time rules that teach your child what you expect from them and what they should expect from you, it can make things easier. Children – despite what many people might think! – like rules. They like order. So they will go along with what is suggested when they know there is no choice.
To start with you will need to establish the right time for your child to go to bed. This is crucial. Work backwards from the time they have to get up to ensure that they are going to have enough sleep. When you know what time bed time is, you can arrange dinner and bath time around it. Next you need to work out the actual bedtime routine. This might include reading a story (or offering older children a little time to read by themselves) or discussing the day’s events. Then you need to impress upon the child that once they are in bed they should stay there unless they need the toilet or feel unwell and so on. Keep working on these rules until they are set in stone – there may be resistance to begin with, which is why you will have to persevere.
Have Good Bed Time Habits
We all know that watching TV, playing video games, using a smartphone and so on is detrimental to our sleep cycles and that ideally screens shouldn’t be used in the hour before bed. If it’s the case for adults it’s definitely the case for children. Therefore, parents need to promote healthy habits in the time leading up to bed time so that their children can get the best sleep possible.
Rather than having screen time, the hour before bed should be used to engage in quiet, relaxing activities. This could be reading, colouring, playing with educations toys such as bricks or even just having a nice warm bath and hopping right into bed after that.
Reward Good Behaviour
Rewarding good behaviour shouldn’t be seen as a ‘bribe’ or a ‘last resort’ – it can actually help immensely with children who need to have a goal to work towards in order to get things done. You could create a sticker chart and award one sticker for every time your child stays in their own bed all night or goes to bed without a fuss, for example. Once enough stickers have been earned, this can be converted into a prize of some sort – perhaps a day out or a special meal. Work out where the problem areas lie and use your reward system to help ease them.
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