With the miscarriage, move, and extended vacation, Emily’s excellent sleep habits disappeared. While in California, she would scream if we tried to put her into bed before she was asleep. The only way to get her and her brother to lay down for the night was to take them on long drives. I think we spent more money on gas than anything else this summer.
When we finally moved into our new home, and settled into life, I figured things would return to normal.
Alas, my sweet, party-hardy girl did not feel the same. It took an intricate locking system (involving bungee cords) just to keep her in bed at night (and alleviate our fears of another knife incident). But it still required hours of screaming before she would finally succumb to sleep.
Not a happy time at chez T.
After a week, I admitted defeat. I searched the internet diligently for tips and/or advice and stumbled upon this excellent article, Bedtime battles: How to nip them in the bud. I bit my tongue against my usual prideful reactions to any advice, and decided to implement some of the tips.
Oh what a world of difference.
Since many parents might experience the same thing, here is what I did.
I made a flow-chart depicting the night-time routine. In the morning, if things went well, she could put a sticker on the chart and have a small treat. Doing this provided her with a visual reference of our night-time routine. I tried to avoid veering from the sequence to give her a sense of security that comes with rituals.
While this helped her frame her night, I also had to allay her fears of being in a new place with new sounds and new shadows. Right after dinner, I would remind her of our bedtime routine (bath, jammies, stories, bed), and that she would get a sticker the next morning if everything went well. Once she was bathed, clothed, and ready for bed, I began asking her questions from the day. This allowed her to talk and connect with me. I asked about “happy,” “sad,” and “grateful,” happenings from the day (an idea I shamelessly stole from my mother). I would tuck her in and tell her that I would check on her in 5 minutes. The first few days, I also kept the light on so she would feel safe.
Because she was truly worried about bedtime, I ended up checking on her every 5 minutes for 2-3 hours. After a week, this decreased to every 15 minutes for 1 hour, and after the second week, I would check on her once or twice and she would be out.
The important part of my plan was to acknowledge Emily’s fears and build a bond of trust. By promising I would check on her, and actually doing it, she knew I was close by and that, if she felt scared, she could call for me. Reminding her of her bedtime schedule and the sticker reward gave her a peaceful routine and an incentive to stay in bed. Each component was necessary to get Emily back on a normal bedtime routine and ease whatever worries she had while in her room at night.
Our household is back to its regular schedule of 7pm bedtime and 6:30 am risings. I cannot believe the difference it makes when children do not wake up at night (except for when sick) and am enjoying the extra time I have with Ben.
I kind of think age 3 rocks. Big time.
Do your kids have a sleep schedule? How did you and/or your child handle changes? Need to vent about your exhaustion? Link up and feel the love.