PART 1 OF 7: COMMONLY OVERLOOKED OR NOT STRATEGICALLY PLANNED WHEN SLEEP TRAINING
Time and time again I hear parents say, "We have tried EVERYTHING to improve our child's sleep! We are at a loss which is why we are finally reaching out. You are our last resort...that is if my child is even one who can do this!" Does this sound like you at some point in time? Whether with sleep or something else? In case you need this reminder. You are NOT expected to know everything. And if you think you should? My goodness, we need to dig into that to rewire your mindset with some realistic expectations.
Having a child does not automatically make you omniscient! I don't know everything about most things. But what I can tell you? "EVERYTHING" to a parent when it comes to child sleep is often not "EVERYTHING" to a Child Sleep Consultant. The schedule, the sleep environment, and how you plan to respond - aka the sleep training method - are the three big topics that almost everyone needs to consider. However, several other areas are often either overlooked or not thought about strategically. And this seven part blog series is going to touch on the seven that immediately come to my mind.
The first one is how you interact throughout the day. This can contribute to your child's sleep! Here are a list of seven simple tools I recommend to parents. Now some of these will depend on your child's age.
TIME-INs For every hour that you are with your child, intentionally provide about 5-10 minutes of undivided attention. This means no screens, no to-do lists, no distractions!
You are probably thinking, "But Megan! Every hour?! Are you crazy right now? I'm with my child all hours of the day!"
Ok. Ok. I hear you. Just do what you can! The important thing is that you are carving out some time throughout the day to focus on your child and your child only. I mean, think about it? How often is bedtime the only time of day when your child truly has your attention?
PROVIDE OPTIONS When making a decision about something that is not important to the process or your child's safety and well-being, provide your child with two to five options from which to choose. This provides your child with a sense of control or autonomy while you still actually have the power. For example, what to eat at snack time, which activities to do, which pjs to wear, which books for bedtime, etc.
GOSSIPING Converse with other family members or to your child's toys about whatever it is they are doing well. However, the idea is to do this in front of them where it seems like you do not want them to hear. But obviously they do!
TALK ABOUT THEIR CAPABILITIES Talk about how capable your child is. For example, “You were able to close your eyes and fall back asleep after waking during nap time!"
LET THEM KNOW YOU SEE THEM Tell them how peaceful they looked when you checked in on them when sleeping.
ROLE PLAY Use your child's toys to play out different scenarios with which they are struggling and play out how you would like them to go. With bedtime for example, swap roles during playtime. You be the annoying toddler who won't lay down and is cranky while your toddler pretends to be the parent. And then be the toddler who does lay down, sleeps well, and is so happy.
PROVIDE OPPORTUNITIES TO CONTRIBUTE TO THE FAMILY Provide opportunities for your child to help you with tasks that they might see as important. This provides a sense of significance. Yes, I am suggesting a “chore" or two. Although these tools are simple? Together they can make a big impact on your child's sleep!
Happiest Toddler on the Block, book by Dr. Harvey Karp
Positive Parenting Solutions, an online program with Amy McCready