Bethan O'Riordan

This weeks “Ask Bethan” is all about helping children to sleep

Q: Help! I need tools to help my children sleep.

Functioning on little or no sleep is incredibly difficult, I remember those days well!  The reader doesn’t say how old their child is, but the same underlying principles apply to sleep for all children.  Children need consistent and predictable relationships with those who care for them so that their emotional development takes place through a lens of emotional safety. 

So what does this mean?  Children thrive on structures within a day which allow their lives to be consistent and predictable. This doesn’t mean things have to be the same all the time and I especially don’t mean having strict regimes in place.  Life is about finding that balance between having boundaries  and being relaxed.  It’s  so important that both parents agree on a similar way of parenting, From  my experience this is where things can get complicated for some families.

Both parents need to decide what to do based upon their  child’s behaviour. For example, is your child allowed to hop into bed with you at night if they wake or will they go back to their own bed?  Will you stay with your child till they are asleep or leave before?  Do you give your child the last drink/snack/trip to the bathroom when it’s bedtime or does this prolong the sleeping from taking place? 

Remember, consistency is key.  Play around with what’s right for you.  By consistency I mean not only in sleeping patterns, but also consistency in their relationship with you.  Are you able to be the same person with your child? Or can you change and be different in how you parent?  Do you try to apply the same boundaries each time or do they differ? Remember, it’s not about being rigid, flexibility is important. But your child needs to know that you are the same every day.

Developmentally if your child is a baby or toddler creating predictable sleeping times during the day and evening helps to create the consistency they need to allow their bodies to rest and create sleeping patterns.  Bedtime routines don’t have to be an elaborate set of activities, but children will always look for a simple connection with their caregivers. Night times also shed light on any worries that children have had throughout the day, and this is where the quality, not quantity, of parenting comes into play.  Have you seen or heard and validated your child in the quality way they need?

Finally,   you can do and say all the right things, but if your child is going through a spell of not sleeping then look after yourself.  If you’re on your knees with a toddler, baby or child who doesn’t sleep, try to tailor your day to mind your energy reserves.

Oh, and blackout blinds have been my saving grace too 😉

Bethan is a Psychotherapist specialising in parenting support. She meets parents online or in person and helps them to be the change their children need. If you’d like more parenting tips to help you be a calmer parent, get your free 5 steps to calmer parenting and join the free parenting community Calm & Confident Parenting.

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