gmhTODAY 02 gmhToday May June 2015 - Page 85

Night, night Johnnie! I t’s important for toddlers and preschoolers to get 10 to 14 hours of sleep per day, including naps. But what if getting your child to sleep is a constant struggle? Here are some common bedtime troubles and tips on how to fix them: Resisting Bedtime Some children will blatantly refuse to go to bed, while others will have long, sometimes elaborate, bedtime routines to buy them as much awake time as possible. While this can be frustrating, it is important to see things from your child’s perspective. Bedtime can be the scariest part of the day for your child. Not only are they separated from the ones they love, but it is a time when they’re left alone in the dark. At this age, toddlers and preschoolers are starting to develop very active imaginations and they may become convinced that there are monsters lurking in their room. To help your child feel more in control of the transition to bedtime, let him know when bedtime is approaching. Advanced warning gives your child time to mentally prepare for separating from you when it’s time to say goodnight. If your child requires a long bed- time routine to get to sleep, you can make it manageable by reducing the amount of things you have to do. If you usually read 5 books, have him choose 1 or 2 of his favorites. If he likes all the stuffed animals in the room to be strategically placed, have him pick the 3 best ones to arrange. Your child may initially protest to these changes, but if you are loving, yet firm, while maintaining the spirit of the routine, your child will adjust over time. Children who are afraid of the dark can become more comfortable with it if you give them a flashlight to explore dark places, especially during the day. To tackle the monster issue, give them a bottle of “monster spray” to banish the monsters if they appear. Another option is to give them tape recordings of their favorite stories and songs, preferably told with your voice, to play if they get scared. Waking up — moving around in the middle of the night Sometimes, if the conditions children initially had to get to sleep aren’t there when they wake in the middle of the night, they will cry out to get it. Giving them something to snuggle with, like a teddy bear as big as they are or a blanket, will help them feel safe enough to go back to sleep on their own. If your child has recently moved from a crib to a big kid bed, she may get up simply because she can. Children don’t understand that beds still have boundaries, albeit invisible ones. When your child gets up, immediately return her to her bed and tell her to go back to sleep. Consistency is key. Creating a sticker chart that rewards her for staying in bed can help show your child that sleeping in her own bed is a positive experience. If your child has been sleeping in your bed since infancy, transitioning to her own bed can be a difficult experience. The best method to help your child adjust is to put her to bed and tell her you’ll come back to check on her in 5 minutes. Follow through with this promise and keep checking on her, G M H T O D A Y M A G A Z I N E MAY / JUNE 2015 waiting for longer intervals between each visit. Eventually, your child will get bored and fall asleep. Trouble with Naptime With so much fun and excitement going on during the day, your child may fight to stay awake when it’s time to settle down. To help make naptime more inviting, have a designated naptime area filled with blankets, pillows, and stuffed animals that soothe your child. If your child starts fussing when you put him down, either let him fuss until he learns to fall asleep on his own, while checking on him frequently, or promptly pick him up and play with him for 5 to 10 minutes, then put him back down again. For children who don’t need long naps, it’s still important to designate some quiet time and have them engage in calm activities. A child’s temperament plays a huge part in how they respond to problems and it is always important to talk to your child about what she is experiencing. There may be underlying medical or anxiety issues preventing your child from a good night’s sleep. With awareness and understanding of what your child is feeling, you can turn this difficult situation into something that will help your child feel better about herself and much closer to you. Information Brought To You By: gmhtoday.com 85