You’re tired. They’re tired. But you just can’t get your child to go to bed. Having a few simple tricks up your sleeve may be all you need to solve your family’s bedtime struggles.
Identify the problem
The first step to fixing a problem is nailing down its cause. Here are some questions to ask yourself to help you determine where the problem may lie.
1. Do you have a consistent bedtime routine? Or is it unpredictable and rushed?
2. Does your child want to stay up? Is it noisy and busy while they are getting ready for bed?
3. Do they only fall asleep if you are with them?
4. Does your child try to get out of bed or keep asking for things?
5. Do they wake up in the middle of the night and always need you to tuck them in again?
Let’s take a look at each of these problems individually and come up with a game plan for each.
A consistent bedtime routine
Children thrive off consistency. Having a stable bedtime and calming stimuli will help your child come to recognize and expect their bedtime.
Put away electronic devices and avoid active play as bedtime draws near. Establish wind-down routines like reading a book or playing soft music. Your child will learn to associate these activities with going to bed.
Once you find a routine that works for you and your child, stick with it every night. You’ll be well on your way to building healthy sleeping habits for your child.
Slow Things Down
If your child wants to stay up even though it’s bedtime it might be because everyone else is still active. If people are talking and laughing or watching tv, they may want to stay up too. Help them transition by turning off electronics and keeping things quiet as they get ready for bed.
Make them feel comfortable and safe
If your child won’t fall asleep unless you stay with them, try encouraging them with little things. First, introduce a calming bedtime routine like in the first example. Let them keep an object they find comforting like a blanket or stuffed animal. A night-light may also help them feel more secure. Keep the bedroom door open; let them know they are safe, and that you are just in the other room.
When your child calls out to you during the night, don’t give in right away. Let your child learn how to fall asleep alone. If you come when they call, they will begin to expect this treatment every night.
If your child is already in the habit of having you come when they call, slowly wean them off your support. Wait longer after they call before visiting them. Keep your time short. You only need to reassure them that they are safe.
Manage needs before bedtime
If your child has a habit of asking for water or a toy after they lay down, start adding these needs into their bedtime routine so they don’t have an excuse once they are in bed. If they continue to ask for things or to get out of bed, have them return to bed immediately. If you let them stay up or indulge their wants, they will think their behavior is acceptable.
Similar to children who can’t fall asleep alone, children who wake up in the middle of the night may feel disoriented and call out to you, needing reassurance that everything is alright. Make sure they have their comfort item, install a night-light in their room, and keep the door open so they don’t feel cut off from you. See if they can fall back to sleep on their own, instead of going to them right away.