Sleep – what sleep??!! Are you a parent who is surviving on broken sleep or no sleep at all and frankly feels like screaming when other parents smugly drop into conversation that their child slept for a whole 12 hours…
Routine: Children thrive on routine and we would encourage you to set up a nurturing bedtime routine that starts with a period of quiet time. You may wish to have some time to connect with your child on their terms prior to bringing them up for bedtime. This could be as simple as 10 minutes of play, reading, or creative time with your son or daughter. The important point here is that you are fully present and you are being led by what your child wants to do, or you join in something that they are already doing (but not taking over!). The bedtime routine is whatever you want to make it: a bath, stories, snuggle time, chatting about their day; you know what your child needs.
Patterns: If your child regularly wakes up in the night you may need to reflect on why this is:
- Hunger? Could they have a snack before bed?
- Duvet has fallen off? Could you use a weighted blanket?
- Wants you? Could you spend more focused time with them in the day or just before bedtime where you are fully present?
Consistency: The biggest winner when it comes to toddlers full stop is being consistent. In the middle of the night, when you are probably at your least consistent or calm, you will need to call on those reserves held deep within you. Discuss with your toddler what you are going to do in the night if they wake up. For example, if it is for milk then let them know that now they are 2, 3, 4 yrs of age (and assuming there are no health issues or your child is not unwell) there is no reason why they should be waking in the night for a drink or a snack. Replace the milk with water. You might suffer a few nights of protest, tantrums etc. but as you are trying to change learned behaviour you may need to go through a bit of pain to achieve success. However you decide to ‘deal’ with night time waking you need to be consistent in your approach and follow through on what you say you are going to do.
Praise: This is something that very often disappears when we are in the throes of wrestling a toddler back to bed for the 17th time. But there is ALWAYS something to praise, find it, look for it and say it out loud. Your toddler needs to hear that you are noticing them for the right reasons, even in the most frustrating of circumstances.
High expectations: Have high expectations of your toddler. If you start the bedtime routine thinking that it’s all going to go pear shaped then it probably will. Your children pick up on your mood, vibes and what you are putting out there into the world through your body language and tone of voice.
Self Soothing: What can you do to encourage your child to settle themselves?
- Could you add a diffuser to their room with an essential oil designed to calm, like lavender or lemon?
- Can you put on an audiobook, so that once you have read your pre-agreed number of stories, they can then fall asleep listening to a CD or story? There are some great children’s bedtime meditation CDs which are also available as audiobooks or apps.
- When they wake in the night, have a sippy cup with water by their bed.
- If they come to you in the night, put them back in their bed, without engaging in conversation with them. If they are reluctant to let you leave, then sit away from their bed, by the door perhaps and agree that you will wait for 5 minutes to let them settle and then you will return to your bed.
- Weighted blankets are reported to have many benefits, not only because they don’t fall off the bed!
Everyone functions better when they have had a good night’s sleep, so here’s to your toddler sleeping through the night!
From the ParentingSuccess Team