End bedtime battles… even in a pandemic

by | Dec 13, 2020 | Blog, COVID19, Parenting, Routines, Sleep

Battles surrounding bedtime is not a new phenomenon. Families around the world experience their child’s determination and persistence when it comes to bedtime. Challenges might include refusing to begin their bedtime routine, asking for endless more stories, or just pushing limits wherever they can find an opportunity.

Bedtime has always been tough, and then came the pandemic. Now, family daily routines have been disrupted. School expectations are up-in-the-air. Kids are experiencing changes surrounding their weekly activities, play dates, and sports. When a child’s sense of structure is disrupted, a goodnight’s sleep may be the first thing affected. 

The good news is there are many simple and creative ways parents can introduce a sense of predictability back in their child’s life! As a result, your child may regain a sense of control and safety, which can lessen the impact of their current worries and anxiety… and end those bedtime battles for good. 

1. Create schedules & stick with them

It all goes back to predictability and structure. Have a family discussion about how the household will function during the week. Bonus points if you can get buy-in from your kids by asking for their input on what might be helpful for them! Allowing kids to have some control can make it more likely they will follow through with the family plan. 

2. Set consistent nap times, bed times, & wake times

Although some families may be more lenient with sleep times on the weekends, an inconsistent sleep schedule is the arch-nemesis of a good bedtime routine and restful sleep. So, think of ways to you can encourage your family members, and yourself, to stay as consistent with sleep as possible. 

3. Offer moments of safety

Kids have been experiencing a spike in anxiety and worries in recent months. They need a little extra support, reassurance, and safety from their caregivers. You may be noticing your child has been wanting to sleep in your bed more often, or has been asking you to stick around longer while they are trying to fall asleep. This may simply mean they feel calm and safe when parents are close by. It’s important to think of ways to meet your child’s specific safety needs.

Some ideas for creating felt safety:

  • calming mantra before bed,
  • lots of stuffed animals,
  • relaxing music,
  • bedtime stories,
  • a warm bath,
  • a night light,
  • a white noise machine.

Notice what works best for your child, take your time, and make it a point to offer it on a consistent basis. 

*A quick note on co-sleeping: As parents, the choice to co-sleep or to encourage independent sleep is a deeply personal and individual choice. You know your child better than anyone, you are the expert on providing them with the safety they need. Physical proximity can promote safety – some kids may need a parent in the same bed or room, other kids may just need a parent in the same home. Whichever method your family feels comfortable with, the goal is offering consistency, and helping your kids feel safe during a scary, vulnerable time for them. 

4. Talk to your kids, be curious, validate

During times of uncertainty, kids need more encouragement and reassurance from parents. It’s important to find calm moments during the day to talk to your kids about their worries. Supportive conversations about difficult tasks must continuously happen. Try to avoid brining up emotionally charged topics at bedtime when parents and kids may feel tired and irritable. 

Ask them questions about the challenges they are facing, what has been on their minds lately, and acknowledge the emotions coming up. This can help kids to feel seen, heard, and connected to their parents, which promotes safety and reduces anxiety. It also won’t hurt to bring up challenges your child has already faced, to remind them of their own bravery and strengths!

5. Provide outlets to burn energy

Whether your child attends virtual or in-person school, most kids’ activities levels have been significantly lowered since the pandemic hit, which may be leading to restlessness and irritability. Think of ways to offer fun and playful channels for your kids to release all that stored-up energy and stress! Anything physically active, especially outdoors, can promote feelings of calm and well-being. 

6. Sleep is necessary

If all else fails, don’t be afraid to reach out to a pediatrician and a counselor if your child has persistent troubles sleeping. A trained professional will be able to assess for additional underlying causes and will be well-equipped to give you the tools you need to ensure the health and safety of your child.

Looking for more pandemic related tips and tricks? Check out 7 Ways to Set Screen Time Boundaries during COVID19.

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