When bedtime is approaching, some children have a hard time separating from parents and going to sleep without a struggle. If your child resists bedtime, it’s important to help him feel safe so he can go to bed happily and sleep well. A child’s fears and anxieties are very real to him. By being empathetic and supporting him positively, you can provide loving reassurance to help him overcome bedtime issues.
Create a calming and restful bedtime routine to ease your child from daytime activity to more low-key bedtime activity. The routine may include bathing, a snack, snuggling in bed with a book or a story, prayers or a song and then tucking your child into bed with kisses and hugs.
Provide your child with a security toy that might help her feel more comfortable and relaxed as she’s trying to go to sleep. This is usually a stuffed animal, doll or a special blanket, but whichever toy is most comforting to your child can work.
Turn on a night-light and leave the bedroom door open a crack if your child has fears associated with bedtime. The night-light allows him to see that his room looks the same as it does during the day, and the open door may help him feel a bit less "alone" in his bedroom.
Empathize with any anxiety or fears your child communicates with you, but remain firm with the bedtime routine and continue to lead your child toward falling asleep independently in his bed. You might say, “I’ve checked your closet and under your bed, and there is nothing scary in your room. It’s time to sleep now, so that you'll feel good and rested in the morning.”
Remain calm, even if your child becomes fearful and anxious. By modeling the calm and relaxed behavior you want from your child, he is more likely to follow your example.
Stay consistent in your bedtime expectations, requiring that your child adhere to the routine and stay in her bed. Your consistency should help your child feel more secure and safe in the long run.
Give big hugs and dry his tears. Explain to your child that even though nightmares can seem very real, they are just dreams and can never hurt him. Tell him that the nightmare is over and assure him that he is fine. Help your child settle back into bed, snuggling with his security toy. Give him another hug and kiss and then tell him it’s time to go back to sleep again, and this time he'll dream sweet dreams.
Avoid activities that energize your child before bedtime. Television, wrestling and tickling may get him excited and make it difficult to settle down to sleep.
Coach Benjamin Mizrahi. Educator. Learning Specialist. Family Coach. Father. Husband.
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