Sport of Motherhood

Tuesday, October 03, 2006

Nighttime Visitors

Dear Gen,

How do we keep our kids, ages 5 and 7, in their beds at night? They come out to "tell us something" (then take their time coming up with that something to tell us) at least 5 times before they fall asleep, and then come in with bad dreams or stuffy noses in the middle of the night. I can't remember the last time we go to sleep through the night without visitors...

Tired in San Francisco

Dear Tired in San Francisco,

So many parents hit this wall with bedtime and wonder if a solution is possible. You want the kids to feel heard and want to comfort them when scared – but you and the kids need sleep! Maybe some of these collected tips from moms and dads in the trenches can help. Take what you want and leave the rest:
1. Re-gain Perspective. This sleepless-visitor stage will pass. One dad said, “I’m a deep sleeper so I don’t view kids coming in bed with us at night to be a problem. I like the fact that the kids want to be near us for security because I know it won’t last forever.”
2. Manage Fatigue. Make the time to get some sleep in another part of the day. Take a short nap in the day when kids are in a rest time or at school, OR go to bed earlier so that you can handle the interrupted sleep at night. This is about pacing yourself for the day and the week by taking into account the current challenges.
3. Tools: Use Carrot and Stick. One parent recommends the carrot and stick approach. Define your “carrot” for getting to bed earlier. An extra story or extra song is an easy reward if the kids are in bed by a certain time. The “stick” is NOT adding that extra story. You can also try a visual such as a sticker chart or marble jar. A marble in a jar or a sticker on a chart are the reward for a “successful” night. Be sure to clearly define successful to your kids. Start where you are. If they come in 5 times, shoot for 3, then 2, then 1, then 0.
4. Tools: Adapt Bedtime Routine. Begin bedtime routine15 minutes earlier to allot for extra talk time. Remind your kids that that this time is for the “one more thing.”
5. Tools: Utilize a Clock. Put a clock in their room. Show them when bedtime routine begins, ends, and how the extra talk time fits in. One mom likes “to use an egg timer for brushing teeth and getting into pajamas time. It keeps them moving along.”
6. Tools: Be Firm. Use a more no-nonsense tone of voice after kids tucked in. Play time and talk time is over. Reinforce that they had that special time earlier.

For those stuffy noses and scary dreams at night, a little TLC, a lovey or stuffed animal to comfort the kids, and the knowledge that this too shall pass can help get you through the night. Hope this helps. Keep us posted.



Blogger Gen said...

Not everyone can sleep with kids in bed though. In that case,
lie down for a bit in kid's bed, if that helps, but then go back to your own bed - solo. Just explain that mom or dad need their sleep to be fun in the morning :-)

2:34 PM  

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