I am a single mother with a 3 year old preschooler and bed time is awful! About 30 minutes before my son’s bedtime I begin to have anxiety over the process of getting him into bed and staying asleep once I finally get him asleep! Please help, half the time I fall asleep with him. Since it is just me I am constantly with my child, I love him to pieces but could really use a little quality time for myself at night.
First of all I would like to thank you for writing in, so many parents have difficulty with bed time. You are not alone and you do need time for yourself! By having time for you and by getting a good night sleep, you will be better able to be there for your child.
Let’s first think about the physical environment;
• Is it warm or cool enough?
• Is it too light or dark for your child?
• Is there enough fresh air?
• Is it too noisy or too quiet?
• Are they afraid of something that is preventing them from falling asleep?
What happens right before bed time, are his activities too stimulating? Some activities can interfere with sleep, for example noisy or fast paced T.V. shows or video games right before bed.
Somethings to try for these examples could be; room darkening shades or curtains, a night light, a machine for white noise. These might need to be tested to find what works for your child. Also have a discussion when it is not bed time to hear their fears or worries. Are they afraid of the dark, do they worry about monsters, etc.? Will a night light help, a nightly sweep of the closet, spray monster be-gone around the room, talk about the shadows in the room or perhaps practicing breathing techniques to calm their mind and body down.
If your child needs you to fall asleep at night, encourage them to fall asleep alone, give them a comfort item such as a stuff animal or blanket, and leave the door open, promise to check in every few minutes. Praising your child for staying quiet and staying in bed. If your child is still having difficulty you may need to wean them from you laying with them. The first few nights sit in the edge of the bed, next sit in a chair next to the bed and then slowing move the chair farther and farther away from the bed until you are in the hallway sitting. This may take some time but it will be worth it in the long run. Whatever you do don’t get back in bed with them!!! You will need to start from the beginning again.
Making bed time a priority that is not rushed. One of the most important things to do is to establish a night time routine that is followed every night at the same time. This could include a warm bath or shower, getting into pajamas and brushing teeth. Perhaps 5 to 10 minutes of quiet talk to discuss the high lights of both your days, finish with reading 1 or 2 books, tuck them in, give a kiss and say a special goodnight that the two of you decide upon.
Once the routine is followed remind your child that there is no need to get out of bed and if they do put them promptly back without much talking.
Bed time battles can take a toll on you especially if you’ve had a long day and if you are tired! It is important to hang in there, be patient and ignore the cries and pleas. Remember it can take up to 2 weeks to retrain your child’s sleep pattern. Eventually your persistence will pay off for a goodnight sleep for everyone involved!!