WORRY IS INEVITABLE. NOT SLEEPING well IS OPTIONAL:
The National Sleep Foundation says that "..one fifth of kids aged 8-17 say they worry a great deal". I find this alarming but perhaps not surprising. The long hours that parents must work these days, the pressures around academic success and competitive sports, not to mention the personal and social changes our kids go through, it's little wonder. Worry can make it hard for your kids to settle and get to sleep, or have broken sleep (nightmares and the like). Yet with a little ingenuity, much can be done to help them sleep well.
MORE CALM DOWNTIME
When our daughter appeared at our bedside after being awoken by a dream, we'd take her back to bed and settle her. This worked fine, but did nothing for our own sleep. So we started taking her to bed a little earlier and spending a little longer with her, reading or talking about our own time as kids. Over the years I've found the best times to learn about my kids and teach them things (in sneaky parent ways), were in those quiet moments: driving with my son or after a book in bed with my daughter. No eye contact, no agenda, just looking at the stars. And I slept so much better for it.
LESS SUGAR, LESS EDGE
Ok, this is super obvious, but sugar ain't a friend of 'calm' or 'sleep'. And a surprising number of foods contain a surprisingly hidden amounts of sugar. That nightly dessert should be scrutinized if your little one is taking forever to get to sleep or waking up in the middle of the night. (See NUTRITION for food tips.)
KID-GRADE ESSENTIAL OILS
A great believer in aromatherapy myself, and using it in my own practice, I love something smelly for quietening a young active mind down at bed time. Lavender, Geranium and Bergamot are all good go-to's for me. I spray a mist around her bed, or under her pillow. Or my fave, a home- made play dough infused with a few drops of essential oil. We sit up in bed and make sculptures together. It's a super relaxing pre-bed play that she actually asks for.
SING THEM TO SLEEP
Even day-old babies can discriminate rhythmic patterns. It's why our infants reacted to our singing by calming down. Research suggests that music stimulates the body's natural 'feel good' chemicals, such as serotonin, a key sleep hormone.
Singing also focuses a child. School teachers know this well when they sing instructions to a rowdy classroom, "Time to clean up" to the tune of 'Polly put the kettle on'. So tonight, surprise your kids by busting out a lullaby. Just don't be offended when you put them to sleep.
Another go-to sleep helper of ours is noise. Sometimes white noise (my son loved the sound of the electric fan in summer), sometimes whale song and rain, and sometimes music that falls under that category of 'gentle' not 'metal'. Choose the sounds with your child so they are part of the process, and learn what comforts them.