You may think that once the baby and toddler years are behind you, bedtime worries and battles will become a thing of the past. But that isn’t always how it goes. Children can easily develop a fear of the dark or other nighttime anxieties which make bedtime troublesome.
It’s no wonder these worries commonly manifest at bedtime. Your child is tired, their coping skills aren’t as strong, and they’re lying in a dark, quiet room. Needless to say, it can be a recipe for disaster if not approached properly.
Below are 10 strategies you can use to help your big kid manage their bedtime worries:
1. Consistent Bedtime Routine
Establishing a consistent bedtime routine is a strategy that can be helpful at any age. By repeating the same sequence of events prior to bedtime each night, it helps to cue the body that it is time for sleep.
Let your child pick out or decorate a notebook. Then get them into the habit of writing or drawing in it for a few minutes each night before bed. How or what they write doesn’t need to be structured. Simply think of it as an opportunity for them to get their thoughts and worries onto paper and off of their minds.
3. Guided Meditation
Using guided meditation can be a great way to help your child relax and work through their bedtime worries by tapping into their inner wisdom. There are numerous free scripts and recordings that can be accessed online. As you become more familiar with this strategy, you and/or your child may want to personalize the script based on your child’s interests or needs.
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4. Breathing Techniques
Deep breathing helps to slow down the body’s natural response to stress and promotes relaxation. Once mastered, breathing techniques are a useful tool your child can have readily available not only at bedtime but in any situation.
5. Progressive Muscle Relaxation
Being aware and able to recognize how your child’s body feels when they’re stressed as opposed to how it feels when they’re relaxed can help you to help them manage their worries. For this strategy, your child would focus on intentionally tensing each body part, and then releasing and relaxing it. Depending on your child’s age and preference, you can guide them through by reading a script.
6. Giving Their Worries Away
For some children, being able to visualize putting their worries in a box and closing that box for the night can help them let go and fall asleep. “Worry Dolls” can also be used in the same way. They tell the doll their worries and the doll will take over worrying for the night.
7. Positive Imagery
Teaching your child to envision their favorite place, a happy memory, or to create their own happy space can be useful in distracting them from their worries and allowing them to fall asleep.
8. Eliminate Screen Time
Turn off all screens one to two hours prior to bedtime. The blue light emitted from screens such as TVs, iPads, iPhones, and computers can inhibit the body’s natural melatonin (the sleepy hormone) production and make it more difficult to fall and stay asleep.
9. Appropriate Bedtime
It’s important to ensure your child’s bedtime is not too early, which essentially would give them too much extra time to think and worry. At the same time, it’s also important to ensure your child doesn’t go to bed too late and become overtired as a result.
When our children are overtired, their bodies produce excess cortisol and adrenaline, which can make it harder for them to fall asleep and stay asleep. Once you find that sweet spot, stay consistent with it and don’t let bedtime vary by too much.
10. Take the Pressure Off
Sometimes just the pressure of knowing they are supposed to fall asleep can be enough to stress your child out. Try to eliminate that pressure by telling them it is okay not to fall asleep right away, but to just close their eyes and relax.
Putting Those Bedtime Worries (and Your Kids) to Rest
Hopefully, utilizing one or more of these strategies to help you better manage your child’s bedtime worries will lead to a more peaceful night’s sleep for your child–and you! If you feel your family could benefit from extra support, consider booking a free 15-minute consult to see how Sleepwell Baby and their team of experts can help your family rest easy!