How does your child unwind before bed?
Here are some quick tips on getting kids to sleep…
1. Meditation: There are some great apps, CD’s, and books out there that focus on mediations for children and help children reboot their brains as they attempt to fall asleep or calm down when they are revved up. My favorite are books are by Maureen Garth: Moonbeams, Starbright and Earthlight. They have make believe stories that parents can calmly read to sleepy kiddos. The goal is that the child will be able to revisit the meditative scene in their minds when mom and dad are away or when they are trying to cope with stress or worry.
2. Calming Sensory Tools: Depending on what your child’s sensory choice is, find something that he can fiddle with that helps to calm his senses. Oral children might use a calming chewy necklace to chew on. Visual children might like to count stars on their ceiling or watch a lava lamp. Tactile children may want to lay stuffed animals around their bodies to make them feel snug. Auditory children may want to listen to a sound machine or a comforting box fan as they fall asleep. Whatever they need make it part of your bedtime routine.
3. Storytelling about their day… Catch your child being good throughout the day and send them off to sleep with a recap on all the growing and blooming they did that day. Don’t spend time lecturing or debating right before bed, but instead spend time affirming how you saw them making progress (even if it is the tiniest bit of progress). Remember it is our job to help our child retell their storyline so that it is more positive than negative. As you send them off to dream their night away, help them to see that you have noticed they are really trying and really BLOOMiNG!
4. Keep it simple and calm… Many parents I work with have designed the most intricate bed time rituals. Do you feel like your list of to do’s before bedtime continues to grow and grow… turn on the fan, rub their back twenty times, sing four songs, tell about your favorite part of their day. Whatever you do for your systematic bedtime, make is short and sweet. End with a quick I love you and you love me… come across confident and not nervous about bedtime. They will feed off of your confidence or anxiety and mirror each back at you. So keep it less emotional and more matter of fact. A few steps for each part of the routine should be all you need.
Next Day prep: clothes picked out, backpack ready to go, lunches made.
Bathroom steps: potty, teeth, possibly a bath (but you really don’t have to do this every night!)
Bedroom steps:pjs on, one to two stories and prayer
5. Visuals and Charts to Support: If you are using a visual chart to support your bedtime routine, make the children in charge of it. The reason I like to put the kids in charge is that I am just so busy (like you) and odds are I will forget to follow through on it. So make it so that they own the chart. If they want to earn the sticker or stamp they have to remember to do the things on the chart AND remember to give themselves the credit.
6. Leave your timeframe Open ended: Who says we need a hard an fast bed time? It IS best to have a regular bedtime, but who says we have to have a hard and fast bed time? In order to release the power plays that sometimes go with bedtime rituals, give your child a window of time that they may hop in bed… For Example: Quiet time begins at 7:30 and lights out will be 8:15. You can hop in your bed at any time between 7:30 or 8:15. If you are not following expectations and hurting, fussing, or disrespecting the rules (too loud, too rowdy), then you will go to bed right then. This open ended approach gives them the pseudo power they love to gain, and helps you have a system for lights out!
7. If you have an escapee… Whatever works…. within reason and respect and as long as you have given them a preview of what will happen, you have gone through it visually, and you are dealing with it “in the moment” without a lot of emotion.
Here are some tried and true methods that I have seen work!
- The gate goes up if you get out of bed.
- The door is open as long as kids are in bed.
- The light stays on as long as you are on your way to dreamland.
- Some parents will start by sitting in the room as the child gets calm, then moving little by little towards the door.
- Some parents put the kids in the bed and then tell them confidently that mommy will be putting a few towels away and come back and check on you.
- I have even resorted to telling them that their favorite animal will have to sleep with Mommy tonight if you cannot stay in your bed… “Lamby is tired and will come to sleep with me if you get out of bed”
- If they are 4 or 5 they might have a solid enough sense of time that you could postpone a reward until morning if they fall asleep without problems.
- Younger than that it might be too big of a time lapse to get them to connect the dots between reward and behavior.
8. When all else fails design a Social Story/Picture Story detailing how we go to sleep… NO NO’s and Yes Yes’s to help them visualize how this will go. Read the book during other parts of the day so they can begin to visualize it.