How much do you enjoy bedtime in your house? (Kid-bedtime, that is!) Do you avoid it and hope everyone falls asleep before you do? Do you snuggle in with babies, binkies, blankets, or books? Do you clench your teeth in anticipation of whining, crying, or tantrums? Are you happy with where everyone is sleeping, and how much? Bedtime can be nightly nourishment for relationship resilience. Or…not.
If we look at daily family routines from the perspective of the latest “Interpersonal Neurobiology” research, we can find ways to shift them closer to healthy-brain-building experiences. There seem to be two very important questions to keep in mind if bedtime is less than wonderful: 1. What skill does my child need to learn? 2. How do I want to teach that skill to them?
What skill does my child need to learn? Many young children still need to learn how to fall asleep on their own. Some need to learn how to handle the separation anxiety they feel when put to bed away from their parent. Others need to learn how to handle the frustration of being told to do something they don’t want to do. Some need help to learn the steps of teeth-brushing or putting on pajamas. Spend some time considering what exactly it is that your child needs to learn next. If he or she needs to learn several bedtime skills, don’t try to tackle them all at once. Choose one to start with, and build on it.
How do I want to teach that skill? There are so many different ways to teach children their bedtime skills. Most of the time, they need to be shown what to do and how to do it, consistently, over and over again. Yelling, threatening, and punishment don’t seem to be very effective skill-building strategies. Rituals that create connection between us and our children work better. Sometimes we as parents need to gain a skill, such as self-calming or managing feelings of anxiety or frustration, before we can teach our children.
Need more resources? Here are a few!
For a list of new sleep books with quick summaries, look here: http://www.fitpregnancy.com/pregnancy/pregnancy-health/battle-baby-sleep-experts