This post is sponsored by Moose Toys.
Nighttime fears and difficulties going to or staying asleep are a normal occurrence for children of all ages. Anxiety, heightened emotions, their developing imagination and even over-tiredness can all contribute to children’s sleeping difficulties. As the mother of one preschooler who has trouble staying asleep throughout the night, and one primary school aged child who regularly has trouble falling asleep, I have tried lots of different ways to combat our ongoing sleeping difficulties because to be honest I need my sleep. So here are 11 things that I would encourage you to consider if you also find yourself in a position of having to help your young child to learn to overcome bedtime fears or anxiety.
1. Time to Play
One of the most important outcomes of time for play is its capacity for combatting stress and anxiety in children. Ensuring your child has regular time available for free play, particularly time to spend outdoors, is one easy way to provide your child with an opportunity to de-stress.
2. Be Sure Your Child Has Time to Talk
As with adults, it is important that children have time to talk about the experiences of their day. Which is why many mental health professionals advocate for regular family mealtimes. Making family mealtimes routine provides your child with the knowledge that they have a regular opportunity to talk through any problems or concerns with you when they feel the need to.
When your child shares anxiety about a situation, whether it be at dinnertime, bedtime or another time, it is important to listen without judgment, to respond calmly and to be reassuring in your response. Do not dismiss your child’s fears or concerns, but where appropriate help them to brainstorm solutions or to focus on positive possibilities.
3. Create a Relaxing Evening Routine
It’s important to develop a consistent bedtime routine that provides your child with the opportunity to transition from the busyness of the day to a more relaxed and sleepy disposition. Make sure the evening is as calm and unrushed as possible. Set a bedtime and stick to it. Calm your child once they are in bed with a story, time to talk and/or a favourite bedtime song.
And for children who share a bedroom, check out these great tips for making bedtime work.
4. Yoga Stretching
Consider adding a series of simple yoga stretches to your evening routine. As children encounter regular emotional, social, and physical challenges or conflicts, yoga can help them learn to relax in the face of such challenges. Our Move to Calm Yoga sequence provides a simple, calming place to start.
5. Use Music
I was skeptical when a friend suggested we play soft, calming music in our poor sleeper’s bedroom during the night. Amazingly, it helped three-year-old AJ turn a corner almost immediately, calming her enough when she stirred through the night to encourage her to fall back to sleep. By. Herself. Major breakthrough!
For children who have a hard time falling asleep, providing them with something to focus on as they lay in their beds can help to distract them from the thoughts that may be keeping them awake. I love glow in the dark stickers for this purpose and will often suggest Immy count the stickers or make up a story in her head about them in an attempt to calm her mind to sleep.
For those who don’t like the idea of sticking stickers to their ceiling or wall, Moose Toys has released a fabulous Glow Show range of glow in the dark stickers that can be easily removed. Game changer! The stickers are currently available in three designs – Bright Butterflies, Star Galaxy and Spooky Glow.
7. Use Stories
Picture books can provide a wonderful means of opening discussion with your child about their feelings, emotions and concerns. Check out this list of book recommendations as a starting point for talking about managing big feelings with young children. Alternatively, look for books that address the specific concerns that your child has – whether it be bullying, feeling different or not fitting in, concern about school performance, or whatever else it might be that is causing them distress.
8. Security object
Taking a familiar soft toy or comforter to bed each night isn’t just for babies. Even children who have been fine sleeping without a bedtime friend for some time might like the reminder to sleep with a comforter when they are going through a rough patch.
If your child is afraid of the dark, providing a low wattage nightlight may provide just enough illumination to reassure them that they are safe and well in their bed on waking during the night.
10. Controlled Breathing for Relaxation
Like yoga, learning to control their breathing can be a helpful practice for children who are struggling to relax to fall asleep. These breathing exercises and this collection of mindfulness apps are both tools that can help children focus and calm wherever they are…including when they are in bed.
11. Positively Reinforce Brave Behaviour
When your child does do well in facing their fears or anxieties, it is important to acknowledge their success. Celebrate those occasions they do manage to overcome their fear and anxieties at bedtime with lots of positive words of encouragement.