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SIMPLE STRATEGIES TO CONQUER BEDTIME BATTLES

By: Tammy Sassoon, M.s.ed



If at the end of a day you feel that you gave your family a lot and you need a break, you are not alone. Many parents are all too familiar with their child’s curtain calls. The requests for an extra hug, kiss, story, and water are typical. Parents often feel frustrated when their child asks for their third glass of water after they’ve tucked their child in bed twice, given them an extra kiss, and are now ready for some much-needed time to themselves. Below are some fool-proof strategies that you can try with your children.

 

Post a piece of paper on a wall, with each child's "In bed" time. Let children know in advance that this is the time in which you expect bath, pajamas, and teeth brushing to be completed, and you hope they are ready because you'd hate to give them a shorter bedtime. When a client tells me that their child struggles with time management, I suggest that about 20 minutes before the child's "In bed" time, he or she gets a timer to set themselves. It always works.

 

At your child's "In bed" time, you go to their bed, and WITH LIGHTS OFF (only small hall light on) give relaxing time. Each child gets 10 minutes of your undivided attention. (As my family grew, I switched it to a two-minute hug and kiss, with each child getting a full 15-minute quality bedtime ONCE a week. They love it!)

 

When you leave the room, there is ABSOLUTELY no interacting with you at all. (We are not talking about unusual circumstances like when a child is sick and really needs you.) Kids who get thirsty need you to remind them to get a drink BEFORE their "In bed" time. If a child comes out of their room after that point, I react as if the child just broke the most important rule of the house: I kindly and VERY firmly let them know that there will be no such thing!

As parents, we must make sleep a priority. Sleep is a gift that allows children to feel energized the next day, AND gives parents the break they need to continue giving the next day as well. You should feel confident about implementing all this, because you are giving your children a wonderful gift!

What to do if you have
a child who struggles
to fall asleep

If your child has difficulties falling asleep – recite the following "Sleep Stress Buster" to your child in a VERY slow and soothing voice:

“I have no idea when I will fall asleep.

I don't decide when I fall asleep.

I let go of all my opinions about when I will fall asleep.

I let go of all my thoughts about tomorrow.
Nobody knows what their day will be like tomorrow.
I have no control over what will be tomorrow.

The only thing I can control is that I keep my head on my pillow and my eyes closed.

I take deep breaths. I breathe in. (Pause) I breathe out. (Pause) Repeat until child seems VERY relaxed.

I am 100% okay with not knowing when I will fall asleep. It doesn't even matter. My only job is to keep my head on my pillow.

I tighten all my body's muscles. Now I relax them. Tighten. (Pause) Relax. (Pause) Repeat.

I breathe in. I breathe out. I breathe in. I breathe out.

I am 100% okay.”

You can do this every night until your child develops this calm mantra in his or her own head. (One of my clients recorded herself, so her child can listen to it over and over.)

Try to keep the noise level in your home
to a minimum. Some children find a noise machine to be helpful in drowning out the background noise.

If a parent ever reports that after saying the "Sleep Stress Buster" their child still isn't calm and settled, I tell them that they are probably putting their child to sleep too early. As children get older, their bodies need less sleep.