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When bedtime is stressful: Strategies to help your child sleep

Victoria Ewen, M.A., Clinical Psychology Doctoral Intern is providing strategies to help your child sleep.
Victoria Ewen, M.A., Clinical Psychology Doctoral Intern
Victoria Ewen, M.A., Clinical Psychology Doctoral Intern

By Victoria Ewen, M.A., Clinical Psychology Doctoral Intern

Many parents anxiously await the quiet time they get after their kids go to bed. Unfortunately, bedtime isn’t always easy. And as the summer holiday approaches, it may be even harder to  make sure your child or children get the rest they need. To help with this, here are some strategies to manage bedtime difficulties.

Create a relaxing bedtime routine

Structure the evening so that your child does the same thing before bed each night. Ensure these are activities that your child finds relaxing, like reading a bedtime story, taking a warm bath, or listening to their favourite song. Also, do your best to keep their sleep and wake times relatively consistent, so that your child will be tired when it is time for bed.

Manage difficult feelings

Having a hard time getting your child to bed can be stressful. While this is natural, it makes supporting your child more challenging. At the same time, children often have difficulty with sleep because of distressing emotions. Simple strategies like deep breathing or picturing yourself in your happy place can help both you and your child relax and get into a better emotional place for bed.

Create a space for sleep

Do your best to make sure your child’s bed is comfortable and inviting, using things like soft blankets or their favourite stuffed animal. Keep the room cool, quiet, and dark. If noise is impossible to avoid due to a busy house, consider a noise machine. Also, discourage your child from spending time in bed when they are not sleeping, so that the only thing they will associate their bed with is sleep.

Track their sleep

Record your child’s sleep and wake times. Also, exercise during the day, whether anything anxiety-provoking happened, what their bedtime routine was, and how their bedroom was set up. Ask your child if changing any of these things might be helpful. Alternatively, change these factors one at a time to see if it leads to improvements in sleep. If difficulties persist, you may want to reach out to a medical professional or counsellor and this information can be very helpful to share with your support team.

Rest is so important, for both children and parents. Try these strategies to set the stage for an easier bedtime for everyone.  

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