Tips to help your child sleep through the night.
We’ve all been there as parents; bedtime comes and the nighttime routine is complete. You slowly make your way out of the dimly lit room and just when the door is almost closed you
hear it. “MAMA/DADA!” Your heart sinks and the pattern starts: “I need water,” “Just one more story,” “I need to pee pee,” or the dreaded “I need you to lie with me until I fall asleep!” Before you know it, you’re held hostage in your child’s room until they are sleeping.
Does this resonate with you?
Or maybe you’re able to get your child to fall asleep, but in the middle of the night, you awaken to a presence in your bedroom. Through the darkness, you see your child staring at you! So, you do what any parent does and pull the covers over so they can climb in beside you. Maybe one of you even swaps places and goes to the other room. We’ve been there, too.
Perhaps you co-slept with your child and feel that now is the time to give them the independence which involves sleeping in their own bed. Or maybe transitioning your child to a big kid bed derailed the bedtime routine and now they want you to spend hours in their room until they fall asleep. Whatever the reason, the interruptions to our sleep can and will be exhausting, as well as frustrating.
Before you know it, repeat behaviors have turned into new, undesirable routines.
Know that you are not alone and there is light at the end of the tunnel.
Here are some tips to help you get there:
Allow your child opportunities to be in their room when it’s not bedtime. They can have time to play or look at books. This provides them with the time to enjoy their room without the pressure of trying to fall asleep. It also allows them to become familiar with their surroundings and to know that there aren’t monsters in the closet.
A Good Environment for Sleep
Set your child’s room up to be sleep-friendly for them. Every child is different and what works for one might not work for another, so experiment with them. Your child might feel safe with a dim nightlight on, or maybe they prefer total darkness. Some kids love the sounds from a noise machine while others prefer silence. Your child might really like to snuggle a stuffed toy as they learn to fall asleep without you.
Communication for Sleeping Arrangements
It is important to communicate clear expectations when it comes to changing up the bedtime routine or sleeping arrangements. Let your child know what the routine will be. After the goodnight kiss, you will be leaving them safe in their bed to fall asleep. If your child is coming into your bedroom at night, let them know that you will be walking them back to their room. This is where they will go back to sleep until morning time.
A Regular Bedtime Routine
Establish a set bedtime with a routine that your child will come to predict. This can include low-key activities such as a bath, favorite PJs, getting into bed for a story or two. Maybe a caregiver sings a song or says a prayer. You can end with kisses, hugs, and good night.
Validation of Sleep
Always validate any feelings your child has about this new routine. They might let you know that they are scared about falling asleep by themselves. They probably don’t want to sleep through the night on their own. That’s okay. They are allowed to experience these feelings and you are there to respond to them with patience, love, and reassurance.
Reinforcement After Sleep
Celebrate your child when they fall asleep in their own bed by themselves or stay in their bed all night long. Sticker charts are great for younger children. Older children can be part of the discussion as to what will motivate them.
Consistency Before, After, and During Sleep
Probably the most important tip is for you as the parent to be consistent with following through on the above points. If you want your child to fall asleep, and remain in their bed throughout the night, then the message you send has to be clear and consistent. If your child protests and you give in, they are learning that they can change your mind if they just try hard enough. Continue implementing the bedtime routine. Send a clear message of your expectations for sleep. This will allow your child to see there is no ambiguity.
Creating a new routine and a new normal can be challenging. Think of the outcome and how you’ll feel once you’ve gotten there. If your child is sleeping better, chances are you will be too. The hard work you will put into helping your child sleep better will be so worth it.
When To Ask For Support:
You’ve implemented a calming bedtime routine and followed the above tips to help you and your child get a good night’s sleep. However, things are just not working out. The resistance from your child to go to sleep alone or return to their bed has increased. This has now escalated into tantrums before bed that seems to go on forever. Those middle-of-the-night visits to your bedroom now end in your child hyperventilating as you walk them back to their room. You’re feeling frustrated and no one is getting the rest they need. The bedtime routine is now filled with anxiety and anticipation of whether it will go smoothly, or not.
Perhaps, now is the time to reach out to your child’s pediatrician or a child therapist to see if there is something more that needs to be addressed. A professional can help determine if there are worries bothering your child and getting in the way of sound sleep. For example, a minor fender bender for adults may have seemed scary and hard to forget for a child. Worries about bullying, peer conflict, or not making the grade can sometimes create high levels of bedtime drama. When the lights are out and there is time to think, sometimes anxiety can creep in. A knowledgeable therapist can help guide you and your child through the process of addressing what is bothering them and establishing a healthy bedtime routine. Additionally, they can help you develop boundaries that make your child feel safe and secure as they fall asleep by themselves. A caring therapist can support you and your child as you embark on this journey so you all get the sleep you need.
Curious About Child Counseling in Scotch Plains or Branchburg, NJ?
Child counseling can help you build hope and establish those bedtime routines that help you get the sleep you need. Our skilled therapists are here to support you during counseling and always provide help where needed. We have options for your journey as a parent, including in-person sessions at our Scotch Plains, NJ counseling office. Or if you prefer, we can meet with you virtually via online therapy in New Jersey. To get started, follow the steps below.
More From Brave Minds Psychological Services
At Brave Minds Psychological Services, we believe child therapy can make a massive impact. That said, we also offer other mental health services outside of parents therapy.
Our therapists offer parent counseling. Along with more general counseling for children, we specialize in anxiety treatment for children and child sexual abuse therapy. Additionally, we have therapists who specialize in offering therapy for teens, including counseling for teens with anxiety and social phobia treatment for teens.
Additionally, we offer a wide range of mental health services for adults including anxiety treatment, couples therapy/marriage counseling, counseling for postpartum depression, OCD treatment, bereavement counseling, and food allergy therapy. Finally, we have specialized trauma therapy and PTSD treatment. This includes counseling for birth trauma, pregnancy loss and miscarriage, equestrian trauma, and sexual assault counseling for adults,
We also have a blog where we write about a variety of different mental health subjects. If you’re interested in learning more about our services here at Brave Minds Psychological Services or online, please contact our Scotch Plains counseling office!