Aug | 2013
Make bedtime a bonding and calming experience and your child will sleep better
This blog will teach you to understand why bonding at bedtime is so critical to helping your child handle stress and likely sleep better
Do you remember ever going to bed when you were very young and how scary it could be? If you don’t, you are likely not human…
Helping your child smoothly transition from wakefulness to sleep is one of the most important roles a parent can play. Especially when your child is very young. You are helping them develop a routine and rhythm for getting the sleep that is so vital to their successfully handling the challenges they have each and every day. Think of how much harder the day is when you do not sleep well.
But there is an even BIGGER reason why bedtime is such a vitally important time.
Parents do not realize the incredible chance they have to get much deeper/richer information about how their child is REALLY doing around bedtime.
Let’s start with some facts: Credible research suggests psychological defenses go down at night. People tend to open up much more at night than during the day. From an evolutionary standpoint, it is because we have spent all day working/producing and “keeping our guard up”. I have watched this pattern manifest for over a decade of working with adults, parents and their children. It can be one of the most advantageous times of the day for parents IF they are sensitive to the more intimate information that might come their way if they create bedtime as a relaxing and peaceful time where bonding can occur.
As a child counselor and behavioral scientist, I have taught hundreds of parents to use techniques to help their child calm and “gentle down” their child’s nervous system. I really like the term “gentle down” because that is the goal, to calm down the nervous system.
At times of year like now, when children and adolescents are especially charged up with anxiety about making new friends and not embarrassing themselves, high amounts of “voltage’ are running through your child’s nervous system in the form of worries they never disclose to you. For very young children, their anxiety is more of a feeling than a set of worried thoughts. Getting to bed is harder.
So, helping your child relax into sleep is not a necessarily an easy task, especially because children and adolescents often want to be LEFT ALONE. They would rather text, or Facebook, or watch TV, or be on the internet. Guess what! That is the worst kind of behavioral pattern for them to get into before bedtime. Research also shows that for the bran to bridge the transition from day time brainwaves to sleep inducing brain waves, it needs to undergo a calming process. Highly stimulating and rapid-fire visual imagery from computer/technology screens takes a child farther away from a calming experience.
You want to teach your child a good bedtime sleep hygiene, and you can do this while also vastly deepening your bond with them. How? By unwinding WITH them; when you are calm your calmness is contagious. Moreover, if you are mellow with them, and supportive, and not pressuring or negative, you can get a much better idea of how they are really doing. Remember, humans are much more inclined to let their guard down at night. Your kids might share things about what is bothering them or what they are worried about. But you cannot force it. You cannot interrogate them, they must feel like you are simply hanging out with them, not prying into their lives. Reading with young children is a great way to help them go to sleep.
Whatever you do, you want to be as relaxing as a silky Miles Davis album. You might be surprised that the less you ask, the more they will tell!! Trust me and try it, but it may take awhile.
With younger children, being physically soothing is especially important. Remember, our thoughts “ride on top of” what we feel in our body. So, as your child’s body relaxes, so will their mind.
You would be surprised how many times I discover that unbeknownst to parents, their child has for months or years been having “racing thoughts” at night at bedtime.
Make bedtime conversations about their dreams, highlights of the day, talks about the next family trip, or praising for what you saw them do that was exemplary. If you help them go to sleep feeling calmed and loved, you may be surprised how much better they sleep. And their mood in the morning will be better.
-If you child has chronic fear of the dark, or of sleeping alone, or comes in your bed all the time, consult a child specialist. I have helped hundreds of families solve that nighttime struggle.
-For anyone with sleep problem, hypnosis is a powerful technique to calm even highly anxious minds that are filed with worrisome thoughts. Think about it: most athletes are using some form of calming technique to be at their best, when they have “relaxed concentration”.
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