Is there a time of day or night that you dread? Maybe it’s the fight at naptime, or that first early morning call, or the inevitable middle-of-the-night visit.
Take a minute to look at your trouble spots. Certainly a child can show more than one problem at more than one time of day, but the first step is to figure out “what is happening when?” In this chapter we will break down the day into segments where sleep is likely to become an issue. There are new ways to think about things and some tips to try. Some ideas apply primarily to infants, others are more applicable to older children. Feel free to focus on what fits your child and family the most.
To fall asleep means to be separated from those you love and trust. It is no easy task and is especially hard during times of developmental upheaval. Sleep problems often show themselves when separation anxieties are an expected part of development. A child might think the following:
When I close my eyes, it’s dark—everything is gone. I wonder where I am going…and I wonder where you are.
A parent’s job is to find the balance between being supportive and being firm, to be sure in her own heart that nothing bad will happen to the child while he sleeps—then to communicate that in a cheerful, confident manner.
Let him borrow some of your confidence until he develops his own. Reassure him you are nearby. Call to him or visit occasionally if that helps. Tell him what you do while he sleeps (something boring). After rest time, point out that he woke safely and you were there.
Dr. Spock recommends that parents of children who are experiencing peak separation issues sit in a chair next to their beds until they fall asleep. Don’t over-coddle, but don’t abandon him to tough it out on his own. Because he really needs to see you, letting him cry-it-out at peak separation times will only escalate the fear and crying.