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2010 October | Sweet Dreams | giggle Blogs

Archive: October 2010

October 28, 2010

sibling preparation + sleep

I recently facilitated a webinar on sibling preparation and fielded many questions about sleep. Contrary to what you might think, most questions were about the big sibling’s sleep, not the newborn!

The birth or adoption of another child definitely brings about many big transitions and adjustments for families.  At the heart of many of those changes is sleep.  And while parents often worry about keeping up with a newborn and a toddler/preschooler while they are getting such little sleep themselves — the biggest worry is the disruption to their oldest child(ren)’s sleep habits.

Here are a few helpful guidelines for dealing with this new, big change.

1. If your older child is a toddler under three-years-old, keep him or her in their crib. A crib is a safe, predictable, comforting place for your child.  Moving to a bed will bring about unnecessary anxiety and uncertainty at a time when there is plenty of change to go around.  This may mean needing to purchase or borrow another crib for your baby.

2. If your older child is nearly three-years old or simply too big for a crib, then I recommend moving your child to a big bed either well in advance of the birth of the baby (say three months or so) or waiting until a few months after the birth of the baby. Ideally the latter as many children show signs of regression when a baby enters the scene.  Staying in a crib allows them to regress and be more baby-like at night with all their familiar comforts and security, while having to adjust to this new role as “big” brother or sister during the day.  After a few months of having the baby at home, things will settle down and become more routine and that transition will be easier for everyone.

3. If your older child starts to awaken frequently at night, have your spouse/partner sleep in the room with your child (separate bed) for a week while s/he makes the transition. The reassurance that will come from having someone in the room can make a huge difference and will often mean that your older child is able to continue sleeping well at night.

October 7, 2010

separation anxiety and sleep

My eldest daughter started nursery school a couple weeks ago.  She simultaneously began to awaken at night. I also started receiving many calls from weary parents concerned about this new change in their preschooler’s sleep as well.

And when you think about it, it all makes sense.

Nighttime is the longest separation our children have from us.  And, it’s quite significant — 11 to 12 hours in many cases.  So, when children are doing the difficult work of separating during the day (even if they gleefully run from you shouting ‘see you later!’), they can have a much harder time doing so at night. It’s a lot like working a new muscle that is sore.  There needs to be some healing before further progress can be made.

So, if you find yourself in the same boat as me these days, rest assured that this is a very normal part of development.  The best thing you can do is continue to reassure your child and validate his/her feelings.  This is definitely not a time to push. Here are a few quick tips that can help:

1. Give your child a lovey to sleep with. This could be a t-shirt you wore to bed last night or a favorite teddy bear or blankie.  Something that smells like you will bring more comfort and ease the pain of the separation at bedtime.

2. Invite your child to bring a lovey to school. Having a connection such as this to their home life can help children with the transition.  (Check with your teachers first to ensure this is ok with them.)

3. Make a book about your child’s school day. Offer concrete examples of things children do at school (i.e. circle time, snack time, story time, etc).  Let your child fill in some of the blanks.  Having something like this will allow your child to process their feelings and gain a sense of mastery over this new adventure, which may ease their anxiety.

4. Give your child permission to have and talk about all of their feelings. Sometimes it can be so hard for us to tolerate feelings like sadness or loneliness so we try to tell children to feel another way (i.e. “How can you not like school?!  School is a fun place.  You have lots of friends there.”).  If this doesn’t match your child’s experience, then they learn not to trust their own feelings or your understanding of them.

Lastly, as my mother always reminds me, this too shall pass.  When things get hard, stick right there with your child and don’t worry that you’re creating any bad patterns.  Sometimes our kids just need more of us, and that’s perfectly ok!