ids’ Sleeping Matters
By Deb Hopper
Published in The Great Health Guide
Many children struggle in winding down and getting to sleep. They have been learning so much through play or learning at school throughout the day. They have been taking in social cues and learning about friendships and relationships. Some children find it difficult (as do some adults) in relaxing their body and their thoughts as they wind down ready for bed and sleep.
When a child struggles to wind down and get to sleep, it not only impacts on their level of fatigue, behaviour and learning the next day but it also impacts on parents and carers as they aren’t able to have some adult time to develop relationships with partners or wind down themselves. As a parent, I’ve experienced times when children find getting to sleep hard and it does make for a long day and it does impact on ‘me-time’.
Parents can create routines to support your child in getting ready for bed.
As a parent, you can create some routines that will support your child in winding down and getting ready for bed. Sometimes simple changes to the routine can make a massive difference but for some children you may need to seek advice from your family doctor, family health nurse, occupational therapist or psychologist.
Here are some tried and true techniques that you can test out at home to make the evening routine easier.
1. Encourage active time after school:
Exercise not only ‘wears kids out’, but it helps to release any stress chemicals (e.g. cortisol and adrenalin) that they might have created at school or during the day. It creates a feeling of well-being and being relaxed.
2. Reduce screen time:
Ideally have no screen time for children 1 – 2 hours prior to bed time. This includes tablets and TV. While TV and tablets may appear to be calming for children (as they are engrossed in the game or show) they are not calming for the brain and actually stimulates it, making it harder to get to sleep.
3. Create a routine:
Families that have a routine help create boundaries and a feeling of safety for children. They know what’s coming up, they can relax into the routine. Put the routine in pictures and/or words on a notice board so kids know what’s coming up.
4. Within your routine, schedule time for interaction with adults:
Have conversation, ask them how their day was and be interested in their lives. This also helps them feel safe and secure in themselves.
5. Do some stretching and breathing with your child:
Stretching and breathing, such as kids’ yoga, helps to calm and relax the body. There are lots of online resources for ideas.
6. Test out some deep touch pressure:
Deep touch pressure, such as a massage is extremely calming. For kids, use an exercise ball to ‘squish’ them. Get them to lie down on the floor on their tummy and put some nice firm pressure through the ball onto their back as you roll it over. Make a ‘pizza’! Ask them what topping they would like as you use them as the pizza dough!
7. Encourage them to experiment:
Experiment with giving themselves a hand massage, enjoy a nice warm, long bath and use calming essential oils if there are no allergies.
Teaching children to relax and wind down is an extremely important life skill.
Our lives are so busy and often kids get caught up in the busy-ness of life. If your child is struggling to wind down, try one or two of the above tips and create one or two blocks of time each week to chill out and relax.
Kids today are growing up in a fast-paced world where information and opportunity overload can be overwhelming.
Based on many years of clinical experience as an Occupational Therapist, Deb Hopper has been using her Just Right Kids® Model to teach children to communicate and manage their stress and anxiety by:
- Identifying their “body speed”,
- Understanding their stress triggers, and
- Implementing simple strategies to reduce anxiety and stress.
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Deb Hopper is an Amazon #1 Best Seller author for her book Reducing Meltdowns and Improving Concentration: The Just Right Kids Technique and Special Needs Reporter for Toddlers to Teens TV. She is passionate about helping children achieve their potential. A practicing Occupational Therapist at Life Skills 4 Kids on the NSW Mid North Coast, Australia, she understands the day to day struggles that children, parents and teachers face.