As any parent knows, if your child can’t sleep, chances are you won’t either. Most parents are chronically sleep deprived. While sleep deprivation is one of the commonly accepted side effects of parenting, its frequency can be abated. Follow these handy tips for helping your child fall—and hopefully stay!—asleep.
Get Your Kid to Bed On Time
Eat an early dinner. It’s important that you give your child adequate time to digest their food before bedtime. Avoid big meals close to bedtime, as this can prompt discomfort and even nightmares. Don’t give your child any drinks containing caffeine less than six hours before bedtime either.
Start a wind-down routine. Post-dinner should be downtime. Avoid all stimulating activities in the late evening. As the sun goes down, your child’s energy levels should too. Try implementing a wind-down routine that incorporates peaceful, quiet activities, such as reading or drawing. This wind-down routine should be consistent and relaxing, and should always end with a 20-30 min just-before-bedtime routine that ends in your child’s bedroom. Avoid scary stories, loud or frightening TV shows, and similarly “thrilling” content.
Give a five minute warning. Children often thrive on the “five more minutes” principle. Preempt this almost sure request by offering a five minute option to them up front. Warn your child that bedtime is in five minutes or provide him or her with a choice: “Do you want to go to bed now or in five minutes?” Be sure to be firm once this extra five minutes is down. Never offer the choice more than once.
Don’t sing or rock your child to sleep. While singing and rocking seem like easy solutions, and are a nice way to interact with your child, they can become an annoyance over time. Your child can quickly get too accustomed to your singing or rocking and develop an unhealthy association to them. If your child wakes up in the middle of the night in the future, they may need you to sing or rock to them again. This is a condition known as sleep-onset association disorder.
Give your child a set of tools to overcome their worries. This is a fun and creative way to help alleviate your child’s fears. If your child is scared of the dark, give him or her a flashlight. If they are scared of monsters, give them a spray bottle filled with “monster spray.” A large stuffed animal, which can serve as a “protector” is also a great idea. Don’t be afraid to get imaginative here!
Set up a rewards system. The proverbial carrot tends to be met with success. Every time your child goes to bed on time and/or stays in their bedroom all night, award them with a star. After a certain amount of stars, give them a prize. The prize can be anything, from toys to an allowance bump, to additional tools for warding off your child’s fear of the night.
Make your child’s room a place they enjoy. Try to keep your child’s room strictly a place of joy, comfort, and relaxation. It should be associated with positive emotions. Therefore, try moving your child’s homework and work station to a different room. Also make your child’s room as comfortable as possible. Make sure the temperature is pleasant, and that your child’s bed is warm and comfortable, and that it doesn’t restrict movement. Decorate the room with themes and decorations your child enjoys. Provide a nightlight and other comforts to make nighttime less scary.