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Think back to a time before the pitter patter of little feet filled your home. You probably spent most of your days in the workplace and lack of sleep was not an issue that affected your life. When something important happened at work and needed to be addressed you were likely invited to a meeting. Big changes happening? Time for a meeting. Something important to be discussed? Meeting time. In your life before children, if something mattered and needed attention it would be given that attention in the form of a meeting.

Sleep matters! You and your children need sleep to function at your best. If everyone in your family is tired, it’s time to put sleep on the agenda. If you have preschool and school age children and none of you are getting the sleep you need, it’s time to call a family meeting.  Here’s how:

The family meeting

Plan ahead– Set aside a block of time for the meeting. You may hold your meeting after dinner on a week night or on a Saturday or Sunday morning. It’s important that your children see you devoting all your attention to the meeting so turn off the TV and put away your phones. Decide how you will invite your kids to the meeting. Depending on the personalities of your children, you might make a big fuss about it by giving them an invitation to attend the meeting or play it cool and call them in more casually. The kitchen table is a great place to hold the meeting as all members of the family have a place at the table.

Discuss the importance of sleepUse language your children can understand to explain the importance of healthy sleep. You might say something like, “Children need sleep to grow, learn and stay healthy.   You need sleep so you can have fun playing with your friends instead of getting grouchy and fighting. Sleep helps your brain to work its best so you can learn how to read and add numbers. Sleep helps your body do things like learn how to do the monkey bars. Without enough sleep you won’t feel good, you will have trouble learning and you will get sick more often. Mom and Dad need sleep so that we can feel happy, stay healthy, do our best at our work and have energy to play with you.”

Model a positive attitude about sleep Stop saying, “If you don’t stop fighting I’m going to put you to bed!” Discuss that sleep is a good thing, not a punishment for bad behaviour. Talk positively about sleep and encourage your children to watch their bodies for signs they are becoming tired. Your goal is to have a children who can identify they are tired and go to bed peacefully because they believe sleep is good!

Discuss the importance of good sleep hygiene for children Talk about how our bodies need time to settle down in the evening so we can fall asleep easily. This is why it’s important that we turn off screens in the evening and follow a bedtime routine every night. Following a routine chart for at least a few weeks is a great way to keep a bedtime routine on track. You can use our printable chart or create your own. Explain that each time your child completes a step in the bedtime routine she can place a sticker on the chart. Be sure to include any reasonable requests on the chart. Adding in a drink of water or a second trip to the bathroom will eliminate stall tactics once the lights are out.

Discuss the importance of good sleep hygiene for adultsChildren don’t always listen to what you say but they will model what you do. Tell your children about your own bedtime routine and discuss your own sleep in a positive light. Remind your children that sleep is important for the whole family and that you as parents are going to try to do a better job at getting more restorative sleep as well. Check out our Sleep Plan for Tired Parents if you need a reset on your own sleep.

Reconvene to discuss progress and celebrate success Once the family is sleeping better, call another meeting to review how it’s going. Talk about how you could improve and celebrate by doing something fun together as a reward.

Alysa Dobson is a Certified Child Sleep Consultant with SleepWell Baby. She works with families to help them get the sleep they need. Alysa offers support to parents with children ages 4 months- 8 years old through both in home and remote consultations. She can be contacted at alysa@sleepwellbaby.ca.
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Alysa Dobson

Children and families thrive when they get the sleep they need. Helping families is my passion.

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