You’re frustrated, drained, and can’t believe you’ve ended up here. Your kids are terrible sleepers and you’re left wondering what you did wrong or how you could have failed at teaching them this life skill. And you’re exhausted because if they aren’t sleeping well, neither are you.
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Hold on. Before you beat yourself up anymore, it’s time to recognize that you may be stuck in a negative sleep cycle and that you need to try something new to stop the sleep deprived merry go round.
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We’re contacted by lots of parents who hoped their child’s sleep issues would eventually stop as they got older, or who were hopefully that they’d grow out of it. Unfortunately, since good sleep hygiene is a skill that needs to be learned, unless they were shown the tools and allowed time to practice these skills, they just won’t know how to help themselves sleep well.
As kids get older, the lack of a calming bedtime routine and the inability to help their body wind down for sleep, results in many families being impaired by way too late bedtimes and overtired, cranky kids who aren’t functioning at their best.
What Can Mindfulness Do To Help?
As sleep experts, you may expect us to jump right to talking about age appropriate bedtimes. While the right bedtime is certainly important, when it comes to helping older kids settle into a better bedtime, building more time for connection, both with parents and with themselves is often a better place to start. The essence of feeling well and the resilience to tackle hard situations boils down to feeling connected – a practice that can really be supported through positive bedtime and quality sleep.
How Parents Can Use Mindfulness To Help Kids Sleep Better
Back to the issue of feeling like you’ve failed your kids when it comes to giving them the tools to sleep well. In order to move forward on a positive note, you need to turn down the volume on your self-criticism. We completely understand that you wish your family was in a better spot sleep wise, but if you can recognize that things need to change instead of being fixated on what’s not working, you’ll be better prepared to move forward. Kids are incredible perceptive, and if they see that you’re in a negative head space when it comes to sleep, they’ll be really hard pressed to approach it in a positive way, and will already be anticipating potential roadblocks or failure.
When it comes to sleep, all parents need to know that it’s a universal issue and EVERY parent faces a difficult period as it relates to kids and sleep. You are not alone and it’s okay to need help! The next time you’re dealing with a difficult situation at bedtime and feel the tension and stress rising in your body, try these quick tips:
- Take a minute to recognize that it’s a difficult situation! Just doing that alone gives your mind permission to not be so hard on yourself.
- Take some deep breaths.
- Find a quiet moment and place both hands on your heart or on your stomach. This instant self-connection will calm you down.
When you find something to calm yourself and reduce your stress, you will have a much more successful time dealing with sleep issues. Taking a pause and focusing on mindfulness will enable you to speak to your kids in a calmer voice, or perhaps try some of the tools you read about when it comes to diffusing anxiety in kids at bedtime. The more you resist what’s happening at bedtime and bring your negative energy to the table, the harder it’s going to be to successfully, and peacefully, get your kids to bed.
How Kids Can Use Mindfulness To Sleep Better
Once you’ve taken a few steps to help yourself diffuse your emotions around bedtime, you’ll be better able to help your kids try some new tactics and build a better bedtime.
Mindfulness really just means being aware and present in the moment. Try some of these tools to help your kids connect and tune in with themselves as a way to be ready for sleep and relax.
- A body scan – once your kids are in bed, have them take a few deep breaths and then starting at their feet, ask them to imagine all the wiggles releasing from their feet and relaxing. Then ask them to imagine their legs relaxing, then their stomach, arms, etc, right up to their head.
- Give a stuffy a ride – for young children, ask them to place their favourite stuffy on their stomach and then get them to do a few deep breaths so that the stuffy rises and falls on their stomach. This may not seem like much, but even this simple exercise that gets them to connect with their breath can really help bring on a sense of calm.
- The flower and the candle – tell your kids to imagine that they’re holding a flower in one hand and a candle in the other. Tell them to imagine breathing in the scent of the flower and then trying to blow out the candle. Learn more about bedtime breathing techniques.
- Gratitude – this is a great one to do together as a family. Take a few minutes and ask everyone to share two to three things their grateful for and why they’re grateful for it.
- Bedtime yoga – there are several yoga poses designed to stimulate relaxation. Once your kids are in bed, try doing child’s pose or legs up the wall pose. Another great resource is a book called Goodnight Yoga by Mariam Gates. It’s possible to do a yoga flow of three to four relaxing poses in only a few minutes. These are really simple poses and no prior yoga experience is required.
Be A Family With A Mindful Bedtime Plan
For many families, bedtime is not easy. It really can be a challenging time for parents, who at the end of the day are already feeling drained and tired. However, it’s really hard to move forward in a positive way when parents and kids are feeling stressed, irritated and anxious about bedtime.
Parents – give yourself some grace, recognize that things need to change, and don’t beat yourself up about past mistakes. You need to start with your own feelings and find ways to diffuse bedtime stress before you try and implement a more positive approach. When you’re ready to build a better bedtime, get your kids involved and try some of the mindfulness tips we suggested to help everyone feel calmer and more connected in the moments before bed. While there is no overnight solution, when you commit to being more mindful about bedtime and bedtime routines, you can feel confident about being on the right path towards better sleep for your whole family.