A (Tired) Parent’s Guide to Helping Your Child to Sleep Alone
As parents we couldn't ignore the fact that many of us do not get a good night's sleep because of our little night time gremlins, I mean - our sweet, sweet kids! With that in mind, we have compiled a 'how-to' on transitioning from broken nights to a full night's sleep. We swear that our youngest aged us beyond all recognition with her desire to check on our whereabouts every night at about 2 am! For this year's Sleep Awareness Week here is a list of some tips and tricks that did (and didn't) work for us. (Hey! everyone is different, what works for some may not work for others)
We would like to add that we are advocates for co-sleeping and have done so with all of our kids. We did find that there came a time when it would suit us all better, and we'd all get much better quality of sleep, if we slept in separate beds. The frequency of midnight surprise 'feet in the face' or 'kick in the groin' also reduced drastically at this time ...
Helping Your Child to Sleep Alone
"Who’s been sleeping in MY bed?"Muma or Pupa Bear(ly-with-it)
Steps to Take with Your Child:
Make a new space. Probably the best part of moving into a 'new bed' is preparing the space. Have as much fun as you possibly can! Some of us will have decorated rooms or bought new beds, some of us will have created a space in our own rooms for our child. Whatever works for you! We had fun getting soft toys and colourful bedding to make the bed delightful.
Provide reassurance. Fear of monsters, burglars, and other imagined dangers are often some of the reasons why your child wants you by their side. Understandably. Validate their feelings. Comfort them after a nightmare and give them a stuffed toy to hug. Always, always comfort them.
Spend time together. Your child may also need more attention. This is a BIG DEAL! Schedule or set aside one-on-one time during the day for baking cookies, reading together or going outside. We found that our kids were excited to be 'graduating' to a different space but also needed that closeness in the day. This is wonderful! Enjoy it.
Talk it over. Ask your child what would help them sleep in their room. If they have trouble putting it into words, try making drawings or acting out the scene with sock puppets. Again, have fun. We made a little 'fairy jar' that our Little had beside her bed that she enjoyed gazing into. I think she also told her fairies bedtime stories..
Start early. Naturally, it’s easier if you begin the process when everyone is not exhausted and bedtime can be a slow wind-down and enjoyable experience! Baths with lavender (not too much or you will experience the opposite effect, trust me!) and lots of cuddles and stories make this wonderful for all.
Be Confident. If your son or daughter are used to having you with them as they sleep they may just need to check that you are still 'available' to them at all times. Know that you can still create new routines! Be bold parents. It helps them to be brave. Work out what is best for you and your child - then stick to it. This is where love and boundaries come in. If you have made the decision that this is what your family needs and that you will all benefit from it - be confident in that. We sing a funny song, kiss 10 times, have a hug, tell the time, provide a hot water bottle cuddly and all is well. Maybe that is too much for you or not enough. Work out something that you can stick to and makes everyone feel safe, confident and loved. When we first started this part of our journey with our youngest we sat next to her bed, silently as she held our hand. Then she asked us to sit by the door... Then she confidently fell asleep alone.
Proceed Gently. If it does not feel like it is working out for you all then maybe it is time for a re-assessment. It is hard at the beginning. Change can be hard on all of us. If you are confident in your belief of your 'why' of choosing a new sleeping arrangement then carry on. Maybe tweaking your routine a little until it hits a sweet spot for all. If you are not confident in your 'why' then maybe it is not the right time to be changing things up just yet. Just know that you can't fail at any of this. You know what is best for you and your child. Be confident in that.
Be boring. This is an odd-sounding bit of advice. I am the best at this in our family. I can be so bloody boring that the kids go to sleep just to get away from my boringness! Our middler is the BEST world-changer - at bedtime. All of the best world-changing and fixing ideas come out then. Daddy joins in. I just suggest we chat in the morning, and yawn. This is one of those rare occasions when you want your kids to shun your company. Limit conversation so hanging out with you isn’t much fun anyway! (Seriously though, all Middler's best ideas are at night. We are getting creative about ways in which he can record these things AND we chat to him in the morning... and at all other times.)
Add lighting. I mentioned this previously but wanted to go over it again. A string of Christmas lights, a night light or flashlight they can control could be a quick solution. This is all about empowering your little one and nothing says empowerment than a favourite flashlight or a well-arranged string of fairy lights. Sometimes just the knowledge that they can control their environment a little is all these lovely one s need.
Offer rewards. Ooooo, controversial! There are quite strong opinions on this subject and I just say - go with what works for you. It is up to you. Kids going to sleep on their own is a big achievement. If you would like to, go ahead. Giving your kids praise or small treats for the nights they are so brave and taking bold leaps into sleep independance can be a great thing. You are already benefiting from more sleep and rest but sometimes it is just a whole lot of fun to CELEBRATE success in what ever shape or form it comes in.
Steps to Take Yourself
Examine your motives. Be honest with yourself about the role you are playing in the situation. Are you struggling with a lack of sleep and know that this will help you all as a family? Is your child really tired in the day? If so, maybe it is time to go ahead with making a change. Knowing and being confident in you 'why' will help you all as you proceed. Maybe you are making changes because someone outside of your family has suggested it or has made you feel bad. If this is the case I would probably just ignore them and carry on in what makes you and your family happy.
Create time for you. If this is right for you then make sure you are well-rested, well-nourished and looking after yourself. This is a big and exciting change for a family and a parent who is confident and happy goes a long way to reassuring positive change for their kids. Oh, and if this does work out for you then utilize your 'new time' well! Have a lovely long bath, do a class, read those books - if this is for sleep reasons then you, my friend, are entering a new season of thriving and not just surviving (off broken sleep)
Be firm. Now, I nearly didn't put this in here. But let me explain... in my 21 years of parenting I have noticed something that I now nickname the 'honeymoon period'. For example - We realized that our Little flourishes when she has a tidy room. We genuinely see a marked difference in her peace of mind, her creativity, etc.. so, we made a plan. We tidy her room together before bed each night. We have a good giggle doing this, it becomes quality time and we bask in the glory that is our good parenting skills (honeymoon period) BUT THEN - we don't do it for one night, then a week goes by. There is a nagging involved. There is an unhappy child involved. Do you see where I am going with this? As parents, we discovered a glorious key to helping our daughter to thrive. It was a parenting win for sure. BUT.. we got a little complacent and did not help her facilitate this after a while. She became a little frayed around the edges - until we remembered and got back into the habit. So that is what I mean. When you find your 'good place' in all of this, that works for you all - be firm. Stick with it and keep showing up for your kids and facilitating what works for them any time you can. They grow and change and it won't be forever. These moments can be moments of great joy and lasting memories.
Model good sleep habits. Argh!! Who said that??! We are night owls, always have been. We have learned that a bedtime that we can stick to, that does not extend beyond midnight, works best for us. We also try and go to bed together so no one disturbs the other ( and so we can whisper to each other before we sleep, that's what being a partner to your best friend is all about, right?) Sticking to consistent bedtimes and limiting late-night snacking and TV is always a good idea.
I hope that this has helped you work out if it is the right time for your family to make some sleep changes, and if so, this has provided you with some confidence and reassurance. If you’re consistent and positive, you can turn things around so you and your children sleep peacefully and apart. As well as have a lot of fun making the change!
Thanks for joining us on this journey – if you would like to connect with us find us on Facebook or Instagram and use the hashtag #loamandlore so we can connect. We love to receive comments below as well - thanks!
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