It’s the end of the day, and you are feeling depleted. You are SO looking forward to relaxing after the kids are in bed, but each evening is filled with dread. You do not have the energy to fight bedtime with your child, again.
The evenings should be a time where you can look forward to having a few hours to spend by yourself or with your partner. Instead, you are spending an hour or even a few hours putting your child to sleep.
If this sounds familiar, I am here to help.
First, you need a step-by-step, relaxing bedtime routine.
Even as adults, we don’t just climb into bed every night with our day clothes on, right? No way! We put on our pajamas, brush our teeth, wash our face and relax for a bit before falling asleep. This is our bedtime routine!! Just like you, your child craves this same system.
The bedtime routine sets the stage for sleep. It lets your little one know that sleep is coming and it is time to wind down for the day. It’s also an excellent bonding time between caregiver and child. Or at least it should be! The bedtime routine should take 20-30 minutes, from start to finish, until lights out. After this point, the caregiver should be able to walk out of the child’s room and not hear from them until morning.
Tonight try my easy routine tonight:
- Bath or Shower (10-15 minutes maximum)
- Pajamas (offer 2 choices and let your child pick 1)
- Brush Teeth
- Read 1-2 Books (out of these 4 books, let your child pick 2 to read tonight)
- One last snuggle and kiss goodnight
- Walk out of the room
Where many families struggle is with that last step. Walk out of the room. Simple, right?! WRONG!
“Mommy, please stay in my room!”
“Mom, can I have one more kiss” (veryyyyy tempting, I know!)
“Dad! I have to pee!”
And so on and so on….
Why Does My Child Keep Waking Up?
In many of my age 2+ age families I work with, mom or dad has to stay in the child’s room until they are asleep. This can take anywhere from five-minutes to three hours. The five-minute ones are easy, but the problem is, when the child wakes in the middle of the night…
All of us, adults and children, sleep in cycles.
When we get to the end of a cycle, we are are no longer in a “deep sleep”. We are hovering right around the point of waking up, and often times we do wake up, but since we know how to put ourselves back to sleep, we doze off again into the next sleep cycle. Perhaps we even look over at the clock and realize we still have a few wonderful hours of sleep to complete, or we roll over onto our other side and fall back asleep.
When a child is accustomed to a parent staying in the room with them until they fall asleep at bedtime, they are expecting to fall back to sleep in the middle of the night THE SAME WAY. Hence, the constant calling out in the middle of the night or even making the trek into the parent’s bedroom to pry an adult from their sleep to go sit back in their child’s bedroom until sleep comes. Some parents just keep a spare mattress or bed in their child’s room to go back to sleep in the middle of the night, so they get at least SOME sleep to be able to function the next day, while others wave the white flag and say, “Fine, you can just sleep in our bed. But ONLY for tonight.” We all know how that turns out…
The solution sounds simple, right?! Just have mom or dad skip step #6 and leave the room after the kiss goodnight. If only it were that easy! If that happened, protest galore would be coming your way!
I want to share a solution to get mom or dad out of spending their evening and middle of the night wakings in their child’s bedroom while they patiently (or impatiently) wait for their little one to fall asleep. Each and every time.
So now that you know WHY your child continues to hold you keep you in there every night, try this solution:
ACTION PLAN: WEAN OUT GRADUALLY
At first, you will want to set the stage and create a few simple sleep rules to review with your child. For example, Bobby will lay quietly or Bobby will stay in bed until his clock tells him it is morning time.
To do this gradually, put a chair that is not part of your child’s room (could be a kitchen chair or camping chair) in the middle of their bedroom, halfway from the bed to the doorway. The reason you want to use a chair that is not a part of their bedroom is because the chair is phasing out. We do not want the bedroom furniture to be a reminder that you once sat there until the child falls asleep. At bedtime, mom or dad will be sitting in the chair until the child falls asleep. Do this chair placement for 3 nights.
On night 4, move the chair to the doorway (it can be just inside the door if your child sleeps with the door shut or in the middle of the door, where your child can just see your legs). Make sure your child sees you move the chair ahead of time, outside the bedtime routine, so there are no surprises that you will be sitting in a different location. Sit in the position for 3 more nights, nights 4-6.
Next, move the chair down the hallway (door can be open or shut, parent’s choice). Your child should not be able to see you from their bed for these next 3 nights, nights 7-9. Once again, allow your child to see you move the chair to avoid surprises. They may peek out a few times to see where you are, which is ok, at first, but if it continues, set the boundary that they are to stay in their bed for sleep.
From night 10 and on, remove the chair, putting it back in its original location (have your child watch you do this) and move to checks in, if needed. Every few minutes, with increased time as the nights go on, you can pop your head in, give a thumbs up, and leave the room. Ideally, by this time, you kiss your child goodnight, and they fall asleep on their own, but you may need to use the check in strategy for the first several days, then wean away from it.
If you feel like you would like customized, one-on-one support implementing a plan to get your child sleeping better, please reach out: firstname.lastname@example.org
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