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Common bedtime challenges (and how to avoid them)

Navigating Power Struggles
by Tia Fagan
workshop
13 March 2020
Its World Sleep Day so you’re all enjoying enough shut eye… right? No? If bedtime battles have left you feeling tired, here’s what you can do to encourage a peaceful bedtime routine in your home.
* * *

Before your hand is on the doorknob, little footsteps are right behind you.

He’s not asleep like you assumed, and your ninja-style exit from the room has failed.
Sighing, you resign yourself to sleeping on his floor. Again.
While I’d love to present a 5-step process to peaceful sleep in your home, I know that families are too unique for a one-size-fits-all solution.
Instead, let’s explore the underlying challenges that bedtime brings to your family.
Bedtime routine challenges
Here are a few common reasons the bedtime routine isn’t all you dreamed it would be:
We’re alone. Unless you live in a multi-generational household or a community where parents share the responsibilities, chances are you’re doing this parenting thing pretty much by yourself. This means all of your kids need connection and support at the end of the day…and there’s only one (or two) of you.
We’re busy. From a practical perspective, if you’re picking your child up from afterschool care at 5:30 and their bedtime is 7:30, that doesn’t leave a lot of time for relaxation and connection. Dinner, homework, and baths take priority. And that’s a night when you don’t have sports or activities in the evening.
We’re tired. Obviously, right? But the exhaustion takes many forms – physical, mental, emotional. And our kids feel the same way. Whatever reserves we had at the beginning of the day are long gone. This means it’s going to be more challenging to keep our cool, make good choices, and be creative.
We’re disconnected. Bedtime represents a separation from you. It can be an uncertain and uncomfortable time for some kids, especially those who are longing to feel connection and attention from you. Many families overcome this challenge by co-sleeping or using a family bed, but that solution isn’t for everyone.
We’re anxious. Many kids fear the dark or shadows, but beyond that, some worry that they won’t be able to fall asleep or will have bad dreams – and this leaves their brain on alert, rather than sleepy. We can bring anxiety too! We worry that tonight will be like all the rest, and we will never get a good night’s sleep again. Our kids need to know that we’re confident before they can feel confident.
Finding a bedtime solution
Can you relate to one (or more) of these challenges? None of these things has an easy fix. They all require work, shuffling of priorities, and patience.
Before you give up on ever sleeping again, take a deep breath.
Start by being aware and noticing as these things pop up in your bedtime routine. If possible, name them, “I’m feeling really anxious right now.” Or, “It seems like he’s feeling disconnected from us after our busy day.” Sometimes, saying this out loud is enough to shift the energy and give you a new way of looking at the situation.
As you become more aware, look for patterns. Be curious, there is probably more going on than needing 5 glasses of water and 3 extra books.
Then, be proactive. Explore what you need to do or change to address these challenges before bedtime rolls around again.
This might mean cutting back on after-school activities, letting the dishes stay unwashed so you can help your child calm their body for sleep, or working on your own anxiety so you can stay present when your child is struggling.
Again, there may not be an easy, simple fix.
But, with time and practice, addressing the root of the problem may lead you to solutions you never thought of before.
Solutions that eliminate the need for ninja-style bedroom exits.
* * *
If this sounds all too familiar and you need a little more support, tap into the Family5 app for more solutions and suggestions from Nicole Schwarz and other parenting experts.
About the author
Nicole is an experienced parent coach with a Masters and a License in Family Therapy. She is based in Missouri, U.S.A.
This post originally appeared in Imperfect families
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