How To Deal With Your Child’s Nightly Visits
The reason for the night visits
“Why doesn’t my child sleep all night?” asked many parents with a dream face when their children 3 to 5 years old give them a visit to their bed in the middle of the night.
You’ll be surprised to learn that no child, or adult for the case, actually sleeps all night. Waking up during the night is a normal part of the cycle of our dream, but adults know how to go to sleep without help.
Unfortunately, many young children still have to master this ability. In other words, if your child counts on you or another help when you go to sleep at the beginning of the night, you may have trouble sleeping again alone, when you wake up in the morning.
Of course, even the most competent of sleepers is immune to sleep disturbances. Common fears in children aged 3 to 5, including monsters, ghosts, or other things that suddenly arrive at night can reveal the most dozers.
Also, nightmares, which reach their peak between the ages of 3 to 6 years, can give many races to your bedroom.
In the same way, any change in your child’s usual routine, such as a holiday, illness, or even a bedtime change, can affect your normal sleep patterns.
What to do with your children’s night visits
It’s 3 in the morning, and you’re deep asleep. Suddenly, you feel a nudge, a tap, then another nudge. As much as you try to ignore it, the nightly assault continues. Finally, you have no choice but to open your eyes.
Before you get up, your son throws those famous words: “Mom, I’m scared!” with a sad look. If neither you nor your partner cares about sharing the bed or an occasional hug during the night, there is no problem in giving in to your child’s desires. But if you’re trying to avoid this, keep in mind the following suggestions:
Gradually eliminates the crutch. When bedtime comes, many three-and-four-year-olds still find it hard to fall asleep without the help of a pacifier, a stuffed animal, a lullaby or you.
- The problem: If that sleep aid is not available when your child wakes up in the middle of the night, you may have trouble sleeping again.
- The solution: Gradually eliminates all sleeping aids that your child cannot reach by himself at night. When you lay your son to sleep, he leaves his room the same as he’s going to be in the middle of the night.
If you’re going to turn off the hallway light when you go to bed, get off now. Secondary noise or soft music is fine, as long as it sounds all night.
And regardless of the routine, you follow at bedtime; it is imperative that you leave the room before your child falls asleep so that he does not wake up wondering why you are no longer there. Remember that this can be a long and complicated process, so, be patient.
- Be persevering: Create a plan and keep it. At 3 in the morning, it is easy to surrender to your child’s pleas, no matter how hard you are to “sleep together.” But if he manages to stay in your bed, even once or twice a week, he’ll keep trying. So get out of bed, escort your boy back to his room, and give him a kiss and go.
Be prepared to repeat this routine again and again if necessary, and to charge your batteries with coffee the next morning. If your child is sick or has a nightmare, you can break the rules. But if you camp in your room instead of letting him stay in yours, you’ll probably be less receding.
- Understand his fears: It is perfectly normal for a child of this age to develop a fear of darkness. So help him, by leaving the hallway light on or installing a lamp.
If what wake you up at night are elves, aliens or other paranormal activities, do a search for monsters at bedtime. Check under the bed, inside the closet and anywhere where the Wraith can hide.
Offer incentives. Prizes can be a great way to encourage a child who is reluctant to meet night training. Some parents disapprove of this method because they feel they are bribing their children, but learning to stay in bed is not easy and it is good to reward them for their efforts.
Liliana, who has a three-year-old son, tried this method: “I bought a pooh-bear calendar, and every time my three-year-old son slept in his bed, he could pick a sticker to stick that day on the calendar,” she says. “When he slept in his bed four days in a row, I gave him a little toy as a reward.” The longer I passed, the greater the reward. “The Grand Prix was a trip to an amusement park.”
Book time for pampering. Many children stay in their room as long as they know that in their morning routine they have time for pampering. As your child probably cannot know yet what time it is, tell him to go to your bed when the sky is clear (assuming that the summer time is on your side).
If yours are a little bigger, stick a piece of paper over the timer of a clock, and draw with a marker the time you agreed to wake up. When the two numbers match, your child will know that he can get out of his room.
Look for an intermediate solution. Consider sharing your bedroom, but not your bed. “When our three-year-old daughter refused to sleep alone, we put her cot in our room and let her sleep there,” says Allison, mother of two children. But if you don’t have a lot of space, a sleeping bag or a mat will work too.
These items are not very comfortable, so probably after a few days or weeks on the floor, your child’s soft and comfortable mattress may seem more attractive to you.