We all know the importance of sleep for our children and the multitude of suggestions for helping your kids get to sleep smoothly. Preschoolers need 11-13 hours of sleep per night. Even with a consistent bedtime ritual, bedtime is often a struggle and a lengthy ordeal for parents and children who are not really taught how to go to sleep. Many times my own child, her eyes wide after an hour of getting her ready to sleep has turned to me and asked, “Mom, how do you go to sleep?” Good question! For many parents sheer exhaustion is the answer! But kids don’t get as tired. Their energy is boundless and they really depend on their parents to help them learn how to relax their mind and body.
In these stress filled times, kids pick up on the stress of their parents and this coupled with their own stresses and fears, often it is their racing imagination, and anxiety that keep them up at night.
Here are some ideas that parents can try:
- Massage: By massaging around the spine, up and down, arms, hands, legs and feet, the child is focusing on how their body can feel good while in a passive state! A particular favorite for my child is around her eyes, (pressing gently on the bone around the eye socket, scalp and forehead). Make sure to only do what feels relaxing to your child; everyone is different so ask questions! If your child’s body tenses up, stop and ask if he/she is ok. Encourage breathing, closing their eyes to help them focus on what you are doing rather then having a conversation. This massage need not be longer then 5 minutes.
– Spoken Relaxation: Speaking in a quiet voice have your child lie in a comfortable position without the need to wiggle and listen to you as you slowly tell them to relax various parts of their body. It is great to end with a phrase like: “Know that Mommy and Daddy loves you. Now that your body is relaxed it is time for sleep” or some such comforting thought.
– Lullabies: Music is a great way to comfort and sooth your child’s active brain. Often parents put on a relaxing CD and leave the room but this can leave kids to stay awake listening to the end of the CD. If you sing a short song to your child you are in control of how long the musical entertainment lasts! You are also giving them an heirloom that they will pass on to their own kids!
– Writing their thoughts: Have a journal for older kids to write in beside their bed for a few minutes before lights out. Writing can often be a way to work through thoughts and feelings and help to ease their mind. If your child is young, sometimes a nighttime drawing is a good way to get their thoughts out so their mind is clear.
What you do at bedtime is teaching your child that they can help their body and their mind relax and encouraging the body/mind connection that will eventually give the children the ability to do these techniques on their own.
For more information on other great resources for kids see http://www.leapsmart.org/