Every night it’s the same story. Your child is dragging his feet to bed and can not fall asleep. We have talked about the importance of sleep to children in another article of ours where we also evoked the importance of adjustable beds, and we especially focused on why you should put your child’s sleep before anything else. So worry not! We are here to give you tips to help the sandman make an appearance in the middle of the night and send your child to dreamland!
Put your child in condition
Provide a moment for your kid to rest and relax between their activities of the day and bedtime. Starting from a specific hour (after bath-time for instance), no more little funny fights or hide-and-seek parties should be allowed. Same for video games that keep your child in a state of excitement. Instead, offer them quiet activities: they can for example draw, listen to music, read a book, make a puzzle, etc.
Make your child tell you about their day
Our children are exactly like us. A little argument with a classmate of theirs, a negative comment from their teacher, a little fight with their best friend, the feeling of an injustice…that is more than enough for them to keep on tossing and turning in their bed, unable to fall asleep. That is why you should always plan a little chatting time before bedtime. A few minutes are enough. You two talk about what is annoying them to let them pour his heart and feelings to you so that they can free themselves from them.
Create a ritual for your child before bedtime
There is nothing more reassuring for a toddler than a succession of actions and words that they have to repeat night after night. Start by preparing your child for the idea that they will soon have to stop their fun activities. Remember kids hate to be interrupted in the middle of their games! That is why rather than stopping them abruptly from having fun, you should set some sort of countdown for them to get ready to stop. For instance, you could do something like: « In 15 minutes, you switch off everything » or « in ten minutes, you tidy up everything », etc, until you give them the signal to stop once and for all: “It’s over, time to go to bed ».
Then you proceed on putting them in their pajamas, watch them brush their teeth and accompany them to their room. Now it’s time for the actual go to sleep ritual to start: a little story, cuddles, lullabies, dialogues with their teddy bears, getting the pillows and blankets ready, etc. And of course, no need to go on forever: ten to fifteen minutes are more than enough. If they have harsh lighting in their room with a stark color lampshade, then you may want to look at changing that by installing a dimmer light, as well as check out websites like Kouboo for different lampshades, so they are in softer and calmer lighting for them to drift off.
And if it’s mommy who is already in charge of this, it’s useless for daddy to go back and do the same – or vice versa. We have emphasized the importance of following a sleep routine in an earlier article as well.
Do not hold your child’s hand while they fall asleep
You might think you are reassuring them, but in fact, the opposite is happening. By entering this game of theirs, you give them the right to be scared and to think that night is full of threats. Your child must get used to finding within themselves that it is necessary for them to fall asleep. That is also what will enable your kid to fall back to sleep if they ever end up waking up in the middle of the night.
If your child calls you back, stay firm
Is your child crying while you are getting out of their room? Let them cry for a few minutes before coming back. Reassure them: you are right next door, they have nothing to fear. Renew this operation twice, while coming back a little later each time before going back to talk to them. At the third time, gently warn them that it’s over, that you will no longer come back because you also have to sleep. If your child senses that they are facing a solid, firmly decided boundary, they will be able to fall asleep by themselves.
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If your child gets up, go back to bed with them calmly
Your child has just lied down, yet here they come into the living room? Explain to them nicely more than, at night, their place is in their bed and take them by the hand to accompany them to their room, as many times as necessary. Avoid begging them or sounding desperate, do not yell at them, do not give away any signs of annoyance. What your child need from you is to feel your calmness and your determination.
Reassure your child that everything is okay
Between the ages of 2 and 5, some children tend to develop the fear of the dark. If your toddler calls you with an anxious voice telling you that a monster is hidden under their bed or that there is a witch in the dark, do not make fun of their fears. Help them to no longer worry and reassure them that everything is okay, that there is no monster nor witch and that they have absolutely nothing to fear. However, make sure to not overdo it: no need to shake the curtains to show that no one is hiding behind them! You will appease your kid much more effectively if you just explain to them that they have nothing to fear, and that you are here to protect them from any harm.
To each child their own ideal hour for bed
Have you ever asked yourself, why do some toddlers have trouble falling asleep?
Experts agree that before 3 years, in 10 to 15% of cases, there is a problem of physical or psychological nature that makes it hard for children to fall asleep (reflux, anxiety, etc.). But, more often, the difficulties are related to the fact that the child has not learned to fall asleep by themselves, alone. Sleeping has unfortunately already been conditioned to the pacifier, to the presence of dad or mom, to another bottle of milk, etc. It is also possible that the child’s schedules are available for the sleep / wake rhythm setting up. Finally, some children need to feel « safe » in order to fall asleep.
So the question would be:
- What can you do to help your child fall asleep?
First of all, make sure to see with your pediatrician that everything is okay with your toddler. Once you are sure that no medical reason is present and causing your child sleeping issues, there are several things you can do. First of all, you can make your child feel safe. In order to do so, you could for example change their bed: placing it in an angle or against a wall is much more reassuring than in the middle of the room. Or you can do that by always telling them the truth (“Daddy is not here tonight”). Another tip for you is to prepare them gently for their separation from you. This is actually the whole point of the bedtime ritual. Finally, the last essential point is to put your child to bed when their body seems to be asking for it it.
- And now you may probably be wondering: How am I supposed to know that my child’s body is asking for sleep?
Right? Well, some signs happen to always be 100% true and accurate: the countless yawns, your child rubbing their eyes, they become very grumpy or very agitated – and yes, a child who becomes super excited and agitated in the evening is not necessarily a night owl. The hyper attitude can also mean that they are needing to fall asleep.
Just remember that every child has their ideal bedtime. In a reasonable range, of course. Around 3 years old, we can say that this range is between 8PM and 9PM.