Sleep has always been one of the biggest obstacles to overcome when raising a kid. From fear to restlessness, there are lots of reasons a toddler may struggle to drift into slumber. Luckily, there are concrete steps and real-world tools that parents can utilize to assist in this tricky transitional stage.
One of the biggest factors that can assist a young person in developing a healthy relationship with bedtime is working to establish a consistent bedtime routine.
Even as adults, many of us can slip into sleep more seamlessly if we have gone through our own routines. For kids, routine comforts and reassures them, settling some of the fear and anxiety many children face when it comes to independent sleep.
Reading a favorite book with your child is a classic go-to and for good reason! A familiar story will not jostle your toddler into mental activity but soothe them and make them feel safe. A routine should last between 20 and 30 minutes and end with your young one settling in to sleep.
When a child is abruptly told to go to bed, panic can easily mount, and a meltdown may be on the way. Instead, caregivers may practice giving their child a small warning about 5 minutes before their bedtime that they have to go to bed soon. This will allow the child to switch into the mindset of sleep gradually and slightly more on their own time.
It’s also a great idea to try giving kids the option of when they would like to go to bed. You could say, “Would you rather go to bed now or in 5 minutes?” This gives children a sense of autonomy and control in their relationship to sleep, which is important to minimize fear and even teach larger life lessons about responsibility and choice-making. Some children may be more receptive when a clock is nearby, and they can see the time for themselves.
For kids, stimulation can come in many forms. When establishing an evening pattern with your young one, examine the common activities that may be creating too much excitement instead of winding it down before bed.
The most common stimulation, in modern day, is the use of TV. While many children’s shows are educational and enriching, they also stimulate a kid’s brain in a way that is not conducive to peaceful rest. Try to limit screen time in the hours between dinner and bedtime.
It’s also important to avoid chemical stimulation. Check food labels to ensure any food or drinks a child consumes in the afternoon has no caffeine and a low added sugar content.
If a toddler is placed in their crib to nap and they continue to play, try using a video baby monitor to remind them it is time to sleep. This will refocus your child on rest and soothe them with a familiar voice without causing overstimulation or dependency issues by re-entering the room. There are dozens of awesome monitor tools available online and supportive communities to help parents work through these rough patches in sleep training.
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