Nighttimes and going to sleep can really be a challenge for some kids. It means that they have to leave their activities, playtime, and parents and go to a dark room all by themselves left only with their imaginations. Therefore, when the parents say it’s time for bed, the resistance starts!
“Pleaseee 5 more minutes!” “Can you sleep with me please?” “Can I sleep in your bed?” “I don’t want to go to sleep!!!” Sometimes you think that your child is in his or her room sleeping when suddenly you see a little silhouette in the corridor or hear a voice saying, “Mommy, I want water!!”, “Daddy, I am scared, come!” This resistance can turn into a huge struggle every night for some families. To beat this resistance together with your child, you should help him or her to build coping skills to deal with feelings of discomfort and increase self-regulation.
Understand what your child is feeling
Why is your child resisting bedtime? Is it because he does not like his room? Is she scared of the dark or the monsters or the sounds coming from the window? Does he think that something bad is going to happen to you, the parents, while he is asleep? Does she feel safe in her room? Or it is just that he does not want to leave you? As a parent, you can ask your child why she does not want to sleep. Give him the space to talk about his fears, and listen to them. Empathize with her feelings. “I can understand that in the dark you get really scared, but I will help you to be more comfortable.”
Establish a bedtime routine
For this, you can come up with a secret word with your child. When you say the secret word, it means that your child needs to get ready for bed. Establish the steps to get ready. Brushing teeth, putting on pajamas, picking up toys, taking a glass of water from the kitchen, saying goodnight to everyone in the house, etc. It is important to consistently repeat the same routine in the same order every night. Your child can do these steps by himself, but monitoring will be needed.
Read a bedtime story
Before your child falls asleep, spend five minutes talking or reading a story. Your child may want to share her ideas and thoughts after a long day. Spending this time together will help your child relax and ease into sleep.
Use a security object
This may help the child to cope with his discomfort and to feel safer. This object may be any kind of soft toy that the child is willing to sleep with.
Leave the door open or turn on a night light
This may help the child to cope with the uncomfortable feelings that she experiences at night and feel safer; she will thus be able to sleep more easily.
Make your child’s bed a safe space
This will help your child to cope with his insecurities regarding bedtime. Your child needs to feel that her room is safe and that she can stay there by herself. To provide this security, you need to have your child sleep in his own bed consistently. Whenever she comes to you, you need to take her back to her own bed and stay a little while until she falls back asleep. If the child has trouble falling asleep, instead of the child waking up and coming to you, you can agree to check up on him every 15 minutes. This will also give the child an opportunity to practice to coping with her feelings. 15 minutes alone is less scary than the whole night!
It takes patience and persistence for parents to help their children have a good night’s sleep!
She has graduated from the Department of Psychology at Koç University. In 2011, she completed her Clinical Psychology master’s degree at Okan University. She worked in 2006 at Bronx Child Psychiatric Hospital, USA as a therapeutic recreational therapist. In the summer of 2014 she participated in psychoeducational and clinical research at the Yale Child Study Center. Since November 2014 she carries out her role as expert in Cognitive Behavioral therapy and education department and educator at YDY Education. She specializes on psychotherapy for anxiety disorders, mood disorders and attention deficit hyperactivity disorders in children, adolescents and young adults in both Turkish and English. She continues her personal coaching work with adults in increasing performance and focus in business life.