Improve your Tween’s Sleep in 4 Unconventional Steps

Tween sleep - a parent and child dancing in the kitchen

If you’re reading this, you probably know the struggle of getting your tween to get to bed at a reasonable hour. It’s like trying to convince a squirrel to take a nap – nearly impossible! 

Late-night Netflix marathons, Instagram scrolling, and “just one more level” of gaming conflict with the right bedtime. But here’s the deal: sleep is like the secret potion for unleashing the best version of your tween. It’s not just about avoiding grumpy mornings, it’s about helping them grow, learn, and thrive during these crucial years. In this article you’ll learn about the 4 key steps to helping your tween get better sleep.

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It all starts with you

As parents, when we’re anxious, upset, or feeling rejected, we’re not in the best state to effectively assist our tweens. Our focus on our own emotions, worries, and discomfort can make it difficult to be receptive and available to them. Therefore, before attempting to provide support, we as parents, must first ensure we have our own support in place. 

Begin by checking in with your own feelings. Reflect on the emotions that arise when you think about your growing tween. What internal battles or frustrations are you dealing with? Journal your feelings or better yet, find someone who you can share them with. A listening partnership is a reciprocal agreement where each person has an equal amount of time to listen and be heard. If you haven’t experienced this type of support before you’ll be amazed. Something this straightforward can be incredibly effective. This partnership allows you to unpack your emotions and their origins. It provides a space to release all the feelings that come up on a daily basis. Like when your tween’s bedtime is a struggle or when they respond with attitude to a simple question. 

In a listening partnership, we aren’t trying to “fix” each other, offer advice, or pass judgment. 

This support provides you with more space within your own emotional reserves. The result is that you will have more room to handle your tween’s emotions. Outbursts, refusals or even snyde remarks can more easily roll off your back. It gives you a sense of calmness to stay fully present for them, which is exactly what they need. The goal is for the parent to stay calm so the tween can offload their emotions and move forward in a lighter way.

Connection is key

Raising tweens isn’t easy. Swift shifts in mood, followed by eye-rolls and unexpected outbursts, can seemingly happen overnight, catching us off guard. Frequently, our attempts to establish a connection are met with resistance from tweens. But in reality, what they actually want most is quality time with you. A tween that hasn’t had the time to truly connect with you during the day will be much more likely to resist bedtime, let alone anything else you ask them to do. 

That’s why we want to offer true undivided 1 on 1 time with them. You can give it a special or fun name, but you want to propose it as time when your tween can do anything they wish with you for a specified amount of time. You decide on how much time you can spend and set a timer. This timer protects the time you share together, no distractions or interruptions and it lets you stay 100% present and engaged in the activity without having to always be checking the clock. Take delight, be enthusiastic, and just soak in the joy during this time together. Your energy directed towards them will fill their emotional cup and give them the type of connection their nervous system is seeking. Keep the time limit relatively short if this is new for you (ie. 10 minutes) because quality is much better than quantity and being present is important but not necessarily easy in the beginning.

A tween who feels a solid connection to their parent will be much more agreeable and cooperative.

The power of play with Tweens

Even as our tweens mature they still hold a strong need for play. Whether it’s engaging in pillow fights, playful wrestling, or a friendly game of chase, these activities serve as reminders to the nervous system that they are safe with us and that we hold an intimate bond together. Put up good resistance and make things challenging, but ultimately let them win. This puts them in the more powerful role by you taking a less powerful one. Tweens encounter so many challenges at school, so playing with us should bolster their sense of strength and cleverness. This will help release some tension so they may fall asleep more easily at night.

Approaching life with a playful mindset has a wonderful way of making everything seem lighter. In times when tweens are upset, engaging in play can help them shed layers of fear and anxiety. 

Listen through the upsets

There’s no denying that tweens are going through a lot. What they need most is someone to truly listen without distraction, guidance, or instruction, just listen. This means staying close to your tween during those moments when their emotions are running high. It involves offering genuine attention, a comforting presence, and speaking very little. As your tween expresses their intense emotions, your calm listening will provide reassurance that their feelings are valid and that they have the capability to overcome what they’re experiencing. 

Sometimes those feelings will be directed at you. This is because tweens tend to view their parents as part of the problem rather than the solution. Try and keep in mind it isn’t a personal attack. Instead, if you remain calm and provide a safe space emotionally, you become the avenue through which they explore and process their feelings. When you don’t react with anger or retaliation, your tween perceives you as an ally. They see you as someone who is truly listening and understanding (even if they just “I hate you”). Through your calm and warm energy, they will gain a clearer perspective. Your listening will help them release and your sense of warmth will show them that you know they are good, despite their feelings. This process of emotional release helps to remove the hurts and fears from their days. Sleep becomes easier when the emotional load is lifted.

As parents and caregivers, it’s our responsibility to guide tweens toward healthy lifestyle habits. Because it is connected to every facet of well-being, prioritizing sleep should be at the top of the list. By using the 4 tips above on a daily basis, we can help our tweens establish better sleep habits, setting them on a path to improved physical, mental, and emotional well-being. Remember, a well-rested teen is better equipped to navigate the challenges of adolescence and pave the way for a brighter future.

Looking for more help? This Tween Loves Sleep online program includes the guidance you need to establish better sleep habits. Click here to find out more.

Sleep Consultant Alison Macklin
Sleep Consultant Alison Macklin
Alison Macklin is a Child Sleep Consultant, based in Toronto, Canada. She is a mom who is very familiar with how it feels to have a child not sleeping properly, and worried about their well-being. Since working through her own infant sleep issues, her passion has become helping as many families as possible, learn how to help their children sleep better and develop those critical life skills.

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