For most children saying goodnight to Mum and Dad is like saying goodbye, very hard. They want to be with you and what if they miss out on something fun? Make sure you incorporate play with your child every day; this will assist them to settle better at bedtime as their cup will be full.
These tips are suggestions aimed at children from 2 years old upward.
1. Decide on a sleeping plan that suits your family, and stick to it. Parents need to form a united team to carry through and support each other in this learning experience. Same goals, same plan.
2. Parent’s attitude is crucial to success. Be completely committed to your plan being a rewarding experience. Be emotionally able and available.
3. Timing is important; a weekend is a good time to start any new changes.
4. Have realistic expectations, be aware of your child’ sleep windows this is important so your child does not become overtired and harder to settle. Aim for the same time every night.
5. Be as relaxed as possible, your child is extremely aware of your emotional state. Breathe deeply, slowly, calmly. Be the role model.
6. Decide where your child will go to sleep, and create a safe comfortable space. (Not in front of the TV). Turn off the TV at least an hour before bed time and have intimate one on one time, wind down from the busy day.
7. Arrange support so that you can catch up on lost sleep if needed during the day.
Restructuring sleeping habits…. “THE PLAN”
8. Retain firm boundaries; this will minimize any confusion to your child caused by your mixed messages. Keep naked romping and exciting games for other times, night time is for winding down.
9. Always use clear, simple language and easy directions for your child to follow.
10. Your ritual cues are the signals your child requires to know what is expected of them. Plan your own personal rituals e.g. Quiet time, bath time, massage, stories, say goodnight to a few toys, hugs and kisses, wrap them in an imaginary magic bubble that surrounds them and keeps them safe and then, ‘goodnight’.
11. Decide whether you will use the ‘stay in the room and gradually move out as they settle’ technique. Or ‘leave the room after saying goodnight and return to the child over time until they settle’.
12. Be prepared for constant repetition. Be consistent and patient.
13. To start on your journey to creating peaceful, restful sleeping patterns, role playing is a great teaching aid. Role play with Teddy or a favourite toy as a model, show your child what is expected of them at sleep time. (Suitable for children over 1).
14.Be prepared for game playing; e.g. need to go to the toilet (again), thirsty, one more kiss, hot, cold, scared, hungry etc. A night light and or soft music can be helpful. Leave their door ajar, a shut door can be scary.
15. When you leave the bedroom after TELLING them not ASKING, to go to sleep, do not repeat yourself – leave in a confident manner, you are the leader.
16. Use a baby monitor so you can hear any stirring or getting out of bed. Go to the bedroom quickly so that your child does not have the opportunity to get to the bedroom door. Sit outside the door for the first few nights if necessary. Be lovingly firm, and breathe deeply.
17. If one parent is feeling like giving in or emotional, be tag team, support each other.
18. Become in tune with your child’s cries. What are they communicating; distress, anger, pain, boredom. Listen to what sort of cry your child is communicating and act accordingly.
19. If your child begins to cry, wait at least 1 – 3 minutes before going back in, they may be just winding down. Listen for their type of cry; we do not want them to become distraught. .
20. It is preferable to give them a pat, than to pick them up. It depends on their age, if they are standing in their cot, or out of bed; lay them down gently, tuck them in, tell them you love them, calmly say ‘ go to sleep’ , follow your plan and leave.
Remember you are teaching your child with love and guidance how to self soothe and settle into a wonderful experience called sleep. Your outcome is contentment for all the family. Some children can go to sleep in peace after a few nights following a new routine. Every child and family is unique. Parents need down time too, time to relax and be together as a couple.
Love, affection, commitment and firm, consistent boundaries are the key elements to positive confident parenting, especially when teaching your child life skills.