Bedtime can be frustrating time for parents. But there are things you can do to help your children fall asleep.
Tola runs our Family Life Program for Mums and Dads and in her role, she speaks to many families who are struggling when it comes to bedtime. Here are her best tips for helping children fall asleep.
9 tips to help your child fall asleep at night
Sometimes kids just can’t get to sleep and it does become hard for parents. It is hard for the kids as well, because in the morning they wake up still exhausted.
Here are a few tips on how to help kids fall asleep:
1. Avoid caffeine
For me, I have my coffee in the morning and I can’t have anything after 12 o’clock. I am sure there are many people like that. Now imagine giving a child something that has caffeine in it just before bed (or even hours before). They are going to be on a high. They are going to stay awake. We have to avoid giving children drinks with caffeine.
2. Avoid big meals right before bed
Imagine having a huge meal and then going straight to bed — we feel bloated and uncomfortable.
We need to give children some time before dinner and bed. If there’s not much time then consider if a light meal at night would be better. You might be able to make lunch your bigger meal.
3. Avoid stimulating activities before bed
Before bedtime do something calming. It could be listening to calming music or reading a book. Or if your child can read on their own, then let them lie in bed and read for 10 or 15 minutes.
Avoid looking at screens before bedtime.
4. Give reminders before bedtime
I let my kids know when there’s about 30 minutes to go to bed. I say something like “It is 30 minutes until your bedtime. Whatever you need to do to wind down, you need to do it now and be laying in bed at [whatever] time”.
For example, if you want your child to be asleep by 8pm you need to send them to bed at 7.30 or 7.45. This way you won’t be surprising them with “it is time to sleep, go to bed now” and this will avoid the whole “I’m thirsty, I need a glass of water, I’m hungry, I just need to do this… “.
5. Have a consistent bedtime.
If bedtime is 8 o’clock, then it is 8 o’clock! If it is 730, it is 730! Yes — sometimes things might disturb that and if they do let the kids know that something is disturbing that. Try to make it a routine.
6. Make sure they’re comfortable
Let them have their favourite blanket, or stuffed toy and try to have comfortable pyjamas for them. Avoid fabrics that will make them hot and avoid anything that is restrictive or uncomfortable.
7. Address their fears
If your child is worried at bedtime, talk to them about what is making them scared. Show them under the bed, show them the wardrobe. Let them see that there’s nothing in there that can hurt them. Get them a nightlight or put the light on in the corridor. Anything that makes them feel comfortable in their room.
Give them the tools to overcome whatever worries they have.
8. Offer rewards
If your child comes out of bed, just take them back and remind them that they have to stay in bed to go to sleep. But if your child is struggling to stay in bed you might want to create a reward system. Offer them a reward for staying in bed — it only has to be something small like a smiley face or stamp on a rewards chart.
9. Talk to them
Tell your child why sleep is good for them
You don’t have to get all medical. Just tell them that sleep is the time your body needs so it can fix itself, to grow, to do all these other things it needs to do.
It might just be something that is worrying them that you might be able to help them overcome. Find out what it is that is keeping them awake
If all the things you try don’t work, your child is still having problems sleeping, seek medical advice, get a referral to a paediatrician. Because there might be something else going on that you don’t know.
If you’re struggling with sleep or any other aspect of parenting please contact us to make an appointment. Our Family Life Program — For Mums and Dads is a free program that offers parenting support, advice, referrals and emergency relief.
For more information or to book an appointment, phone 07 4953 1788 or email firstname.lastname@example.org