Not all children drift off to sleep within minutes of climbing into bed. For some, the trip to dreamland is difficult to say the least, and parents get desperate after a few hours of trying. Most children have some little thing of comfort that helps them drift off, such as a toy, music, or the sound of a television in another room; the trick for parents is to figure out what that one thing is. Until you nail it down, these strategies can keep you from soothing, fussing, and herding your child back to bed constantly throughout the night.
Just say no to caffeine or sugar in the one or two hours before bedtime. Both of these substances will rev your kid up. Caffeine is also a diuretic, which means lots of bathroom breaks when your child is supposed to be in bed.
Limit liquids in the hour before bedtime. As with caffeine, last-minute liquid can mean lots of potty trips. Have your child go to the bathroom before bed, and do what you can to make sure that takes care of it until morning.
Set a routine for your child's bedtime. After having the same routine day after day, your child's mind will switch to a bedtime mentality as soon as this routine starts each evening. Things like brushing teeth, using the bathroom, taking a bath and reading a bedtime story can all be added to the routine.
Send your child to his room 30 minutes before bedtime to give him a chance to wind down. Allow him to read or play quietly with one or two toys.
Turn the lights out at bedtime and tuck your child into bed. Provide him with any small stuffed toy or blanket that he likes to sleep with. Leave a small night-light on for kids who hate the dark. If reading a bedtime story or singing a lullaby is part of the bedtime routine, do those things at this time.
Leave the room for 20 minutes. Tell your child you will be back to check in on him at that time, and always follow through. In many cases, your child will be asleep within 10 minutes, but if he has a hard time getting to sleep, he might still be trying to wind down.
Busy yourself in your child's room, quietly straightening up, if after 20 minutes he is still awake. It might just be that he needs you in the room for security. Work by the light of the nightlight so the room stays fairly dark. Because you're working instead of giving in and lying down with him, your child can slowly get used to the idea that he has to fall asleep on his own. Do not stay long. Try to keep it at 10 minutes or less.
Leave the room. This time, do not tell your child out loud that you are leaving, but simply walk out. Only speak if your child voices concern.
Return to the room only if your child calls out to you. Each time he asks you to come, take longer to get there.
- A few additional tips include playing soft music or sounds and rubbing his back for a few minutes after tucking him in. You might also try asking him what sounds in the house make him feel safe while he's lying in bed.
- If your child wakes up and wants you, make your time together somewhat boring. Do not play games, tell him another story, sing, or do other stimulating activities.
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