Getting your child to sleep

GOOD sleep and good moods go hand in hand for parents and children. Yet sleep - much sought after by parents and resisted by children - is the most frequent cause of frustration for up to 25percent of parents of young children.

GOOD sleep and good moods go hand in hand for parents and children. Yet sleep - much sought after by parents and resisted by children - is the most frequent cause of frustration for up to 25percent of parents of young children.

To make sleep changes you'll need:

l To stick to bedtimes and routines in the face of heartfelt resistance.

l Large amounts of patience.

l Support from those around you.

l Someone to take turns handling the bedtime routine, if possible.

Why children try to stay awake

A child might look and act exhausted but can still battle to stay awake.

This is because children are fundamentally motivated to explore and ensure they miss nothing.

It's up to you to decide when your children should go to bed and at what time you expect them to settle to sleep.

There's some variation in the amount of sleep each person needs, but on average, a five-year-old child needs 11 hours of sleep each night.

Routine matters

A regular bedtime routine, repeated at the same time every night, is essential for creating good sleep habits.

A sleep routine might go something like this:

7.30pm - Offer your child a warm drink and cuddle time with you or your partner, get them to brush teeth and visit the toilet, snuggle them up in bed with a favourite soft toy and read them one or two short stories. Tell your child it's time for sleep.

8pm - Dim the lights and kiss your child good night. At this point expect them to stop playing and stay in bed.

Bedtime mantra

As part of your routine, it's a good idea to have a vocal cue to let your child know that it's bedtime.

"Time for sleep now", "Good night, sleep tight" or some other repetitive saying will tell your child it's time to settle to sleep.

Beds are for sleeping

Put your child to sleep in the place they'll spend the night. This makes a connection for your child between their bed, their bedroom and sleep that will make going to sleep there increasingly likely.

Don't permit your child to fall asleep watching TV or DVDs in bed.

Golden rules

Once your child is in bed, it is crucial they stay there. Don't give them any excuses to get out of bed unnecessarily. Make sure there's water to drink in the room, and easy access to the toilet if necessary.

End-of-the-day dilemmas

Evenings can be the most exciting and chaotic time of day.

Everyone is arriving home sharing stories, catching up on playtime and starting the tasks of creating meals, unpacking school bags and tuning in to the family.

If you haven't seen your children all day you may be tempted into some rough and tumble play, tickling or chasing. Try these exciting games as early as you can and finish off your play with calming activities such as jigsaws, reading stories or putting teddies and dolls to bed.

Avoid computer or video games in the evenings since these stimulate your child and make sleep more difficult.

Daytime playtime

Have plenty of loving quality time with your child during waking hours.

Many children stay awake in order to top up on playtime they feel they've missed during the day.

If your child is finding it difficult to settle, add in one or two 20-minute playtimes during the day to make sure they've had enough of you by bedtime.

Getting the sleep everyone needs may take a week or two of effort but stick to the routine you have decided and everyone will feel better. - www.associatedcontent.com

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