Many parents of young children are challenged by their child’s sleep habits and patterns, so much so that a good night’s sleep is something they long for even after their child starts kindergarten or first grade! It gets to be very frustrating at times for parents when they cannot function at their best during the day because they are sleep-deprived. And if the sleeplessness continues for an extended period of time, it may affect an individual’s personal and professional life, not to mention their child’s health and development.
Young children thrive on having healthy, loving and dependable relationships in their lives that provide them with sense of security. Infants and toddlers need to know that their world is a predictable place full of routines to help them experience a peace of mind. When predictability and routine are present in children’s lives, they can feel comfortable enough to explore their environment, make new discoveries and learn.
Therefore, having a routine is crucial in young children’s lives. Daily routines may include what happens when a child wakes up; when, where and who they eat with; who they spend most of their time with and how they fall asleep.
Parents can create their own routines with/for their children. Routines are not meant to be boring or assertive. Be creative and take into consideration your own child’s likes and dislikes, and also keep in mind your child’s age and developmental stage. Some popular routines are reading a bedtime story or two; it could be a bath or brushing teeth before going to bed, or a game that you play together. It could be as simple as reciting a personal prayer together, or help a lovable toy to go to sleep. It could also be a combination of things. Whatever it may be, keep it simple for your child to remember and recognize.
To help children who wake up during the night, parents may come up with other routines to help them go back to sleep. However these routines should not be negotiable or elaborate ones. They could be as simple as saying a few words to help the child feel safe and comfortable so they can go back to sleep. Parents can also try to leave a light on or a door open. Some well meaning parents may sit with the child, feed the child or transport the child into their room or bed. It is very difficult to advise parents about what is right or wrong in this situation, the only thing I will say is whatever you decide to do, be ready to do it every time they wake up and call for you.
Another important thing to remember is to be consistent – if need be vocalize it to your child when bedtime is approaching, even with infants and toddlers. For example, you can say something like, “now I’m going to read you two books and then it is going to be time to turn off the lights and say good night!” As children grow older, you may give them a choice of how many books you are going to read or ask them to choose the books. Just remember to limit their choices. You may also include them in creating the routine. Studies show that when children are involved in the decision making process, they are more likely to follow it.
Creating some simple and fun routines, and following through by being consistent, could eliminate a lot of power struggle between parents and young children. Helping children develop an understanding of their daily routines adds yet another important building block to constructing a solid foundation on which children can grow and develop their own understanding and cognition.
And finally, you can get the good night’s sleep you have been striving for!