When we have older siblings in the house we may wonder how to explain the sleep training process to them.
It’s common to have some apprehension around how things will go and how siblings will respond to the crying and changes to the routine. Here is where knowledge and involving them is everything ! When they know the plan and can be a part of it, it will lessen any anxiety or aloneness they may feel through the transition.
Plan a meeting
While we often talk about a family meeting when sleep training older kids, this meeting can work just as well when introducing siblings to sleep training their younger sibling. Here we can talk about why sleep is so important to all of us. How do they feel when they are well rested and what do they feel they can do better when they have better sleep. You can discuss here how we are going to be working on baby/toddler’s sleep so that they can learn how to fall asleep on their own and get better sleep too.
This is a great time to share the method you may be using and what that may look like when you are needing a bit of extra time to help the baby initially fall asleep. As well you can share that learning new things can be hard and that they may hear their sibling fuss or cry a bit more than usual and that is normal. We will be helping them through this and can provide lots of cuddles and praise when they are awake during the day.
Provide a script for what it may look like :
“We are going to be teaching your little brother/sister to be a great sleeper, just like you! Right now they are having a hard time sleeping and this is often keeping us all awake at night time.
This weekend we will be starting to help her/him fall asleep on their own. While they are learning it may mean they need a bit more help from mommy and daddy during naps and bedtime. This also may mean we hear a bit more crying, as this is new for them and they are learning.
We want you to know that your sister/brother is safe and has a full belly and clean diaper and that soon we will all be getting more sleep and have more time in the evenings for a fun game or an extra book before bedtime. “
Talk about the plan for bedtime
If sleep training may take some time away from them during the transition, I would explain this. You can make up a special activity box together that has some new things they can do or work on as you help the baby/toddler those first few days. You can also pick out a special game or activity that you can do once the baby/toddler is settled. Giving this special time and finding the time to include them, can help to distract them while also giving some attention when we can.
You can also talk about and practice what they can do if they get woken in the night. Most children are great at sleeping through the occasional crying that may happen with sleep training but we can help by giving them some tools. Explain what they can do if they get woken up in the night. For example, hug their stuffy, hold their blanket, count to 20 in their head. This can help prepare them for the off chance they may get woken up.
Let them know you are happy to answer any questions they may have and let them ask away ? Sometimes working through these before helps so we aren’t juggling all the questions during the process. As well here you can provide some reassurance around the timeline and that we are working on this as a team. They can always come to you with questions or if they are having a hard time with something during the process.
Finally ask what we can do to help ?
Whether it’s using some extra white noise or headphones, having a sleepover at grandmas those first few days or a special sleepover in your room when the process is done, think outside the box. Your family is unique so think about what may work best for your family and child. You can find more tips for starting the process here.