Question: When is the right time to make bedtime more pleasurable for a toddler having sleep problems?
Answer: The right time is once the underlying issues have been uncovered and processed, the child is feeling understood, more comfortable, and safe, and any parental problems are better under control.
When bedtime has been scary for toddlers or they have not been sleeping in their room for some time, it is important to make their space feel comfortable, safe, and consistent. Here are some ways to do that:
- Make the child's bedroom a place he/she wants to be - warm and inviting - but not overly stimulating. Let the child help decorate by choosing blankets, stuffed animals, and other comforting objects (if the child was in the parents' bed, maybe he/she can have something that reminds him/her of the parents or if monsters were in the room, the child can have something that keeps them away).
- Spend more time in the room with the child every day relaxing.
- Establish a clear bedtime routine, starting to wind the toddler down early in the night (e.g., after dinner bath, stories or other quieting activities).
- Be consistent in these routines.
- Be present and reassuring; be sure your child knows you are nearby and he/she is safe. If your child becomes fussy or upset, allow him/her a few minutes to try and manage the feelings by him/herself. This helps give toddlers the opportunity to begin to develop the skills to regulate their emotions on their own. Ideally, the child has had enough good caretaking experiences early on that the child will eventually be able to internalize what the parents have done to comfort him/her in the past and do it for him/herself now. When needed, step in and provide comfort and soothing when the child is still struggling. This provides additional reassurance and helps build the child's regulatory capacity.
Are you ready to Win Back Your Bed From Your Toddler? Click on this link and watch a step-by-step video from Videojug Parenting.