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Breathing in, I am calm.
Breathing out, I graciously fetch a glass of water.
Breathing in, I am relaxed(ish).
Breathing out, I give one last snuggle.
Breathing in, I am peaceful... (Really trying here).
Breathing out, why won't you go to sleep already?!?!
As parents, we've all been there. Tired and a wee bit impatient after a busy day. All too aware that morning will come faster than we'd like. And a kid (or kids!) who just can't, or seemingly won't, go to sleep. As the hands of the clock confirm it's well past bedtime and images of tomorrow morning's battle to wake up and get ready for school swirl in our heads, it can be easy to get swept up in the drama of it all...
Anxiety levels rise. A parent who just wants some free time at the end of a chaotic day... a child who really is tired and could use some sleep, but for whatever reason is anxious, or overtired, or just wired.
All too easily tempers flare. We lose perspective. We feel caught up in a situation that seems beyond our control.
How do we regain a sense of control? How do we avoid the despair that leads to losing our patience and instead creates even more tension? We can't force a child to sleep no more than a child can force sleep to happen - so how do we fix this situation?
As the hour on the clock creeps later and later, what we can do is choose together how this time will now be spent. Creating options to form a "what's next?" plan that's acceptable to both you and your child is an effective way of regaining calm and a renewed sense of control.
It can actually be fun to create a menu of strategies together that will help in these times of wakefulness. These options can also be used to prevent future struggles and form the foundation of a bedtime routine.
Below you can find a few options to try out with your child as you create your own "Plan B". Some may be done together, others you can encourage your child to take on independently. This way when bedtime struggles come your way, there's a clear set of options that you can both live with, and hopefully fall asleep with too!
Integrate some calming yoga poses to activate your child's rest and digest response and redirect their attention away from their worry of not being able to fall asleep. This pose brings a wealth of noted benefits, including easing anxiety, insomnia, headaches, and digestive issues. Looking for more poses to add to your repertoire? Consider attending a Bedtime Yoga class, or ordering a set of Bedtime Yoga cards to do at home. You can visit Ottawa area Yoga Instructor Glenda Rodriguez's Bedtime Yoga Store at here for ideas!
Move over to sit in front of a wall.
Lie down and swing your legs up to rest on the wall. Be sure to bring your bottom as close to the wall as possible. Or try lying on the floor in front of your bed and swing the legs up to rest on the side of the bed.
Make sure you are warm. Pull a cozy blanket over your body.
Relax your arms by your sides. Maybe reach over and hold your parent's hand. Slowly turn your head left and right.
Take this time to come back to thinking about all of the good things in your life. Picture someone or something that makes you smile and for which you feel thankful.
You might choose to share your thoughts with your parent as they lie by your side. Or share something from your day. Use this time to quietly share some thoughts or choose to simply rest quietly together enjoying each other's company.
Work in a little lavender essential oil rub with a relaxing foot, hand or back massage. To make your own rub make sure you choose a high grade therapeutic essential oil and mix it with a carrier oil such as coconut oil or sunflower oil and rub it between your hands to create a soothing rub. Never use an undiluted oil on your child's skin. Naturemoms.com has a wonderful blog on the top ten oils to use for kids.
This is simple and effective. Using an eye mask blocks out light and stops the optical nerve from processing information. The gentle pressure of the mask around the eyes can also have a therapeutic effect.
Guiding a muscle tensing and release of the entire body can be a wonderful way to lull a child to sleep. You can make up your own, starting with tensing the toes and feet on the inhale and relaxing with the exhale, working your way slowly through the entire body. Or choose from one of the many wonderful tracks available online. Lori Lite's album Indigo Ocean Dreams is a great pick for primary school aged kids. The Angry Octopus track features a wonderful guided muscle release that is relatable, amusing, and effective. Older kids will appreciate her Indigo Teen Dreams album.
For the worriers you may try introducing some mindfulness meditation in an accessible and creative visualization borrowed from yoga teacher Bernie Clarke. With the idea that thoughts are like plants, go on to explain that worries are like weeds in a garden while good thoughts are like flowers. Encourage your child to visualize their own garden and start to plant some flowers. Think of a friend, something good that happened that day, or something they really like to do, assign and describe a flower for that person or thought. Any kind you like. Encourage them to create a colourful garden in their minds eye. When a worry or negative thoughts enters, see it as a weed in the garden. When we pay attention to the weeds it's like we are watering them and they grow bigger and bigger the more we come back to them. Kids can learn to choose to water the flowers instead. This technique helps us appreciate the good in our lives, and start to recognize and redirect negative thought patterns.
Try adding one or a few of the above suggestions into your own Plan B routine. If something stops working, move on and be ready to try something else. Above all, please remember that these struggles are temporary. You will get through it and your child will eventually sleep peacefully again. For more sleep tips, click here!