My girls are generally good sleepers. My first has been an amazing sleeper since birth, and well once we got through that first brutal year with the second, it has been mostly easy peasy.
However, every so often they will wage war against bedtime. And what kid has not had that very battle in your home. No amount of hugs, sips of water, hugs, bathroom trips, hugs, threats, hugs, begging, and more hugs will work, and then the entire house is up in arms and frustrated.
I am going to share my secret. This is what works for us in our home … MOST of the time. And maybe it can help in yours. Definitely not always, but it is now my first resort instead of my thirty-fifth resort.
I crawl into bed with whichever child is not having this bedtime deal, and we make grandiose plans. Big dream plans. We use our vivid imaginations to create entire scenarios for us to dream about together, so that we can meet in our dreams.
For my five year old, this most often involves unicorns. She is unicorn obsessed, and so we whisper about riding our unicorns together, over rainbows and across beaches. We quietly described the colors of our unicorns, their vibrant manes and the silly names we will give them. The far off lands we will visit together, atop our unicorns.
Or of the tooth fairy, who will hopefully remember to come back tonight, once said child is actually asleep. We giggle about visiting the tooth fairy and all of the other fairies, to see their secret gardens. We plan fairy picnics and games to play with our new fairy friends in our dreams.
With my more practical seven year old, who is moving out of that little girl stage, our dream plans are different but just as fun. She enjoys making plans for beach days, where like on a recent family cruise, one of the beaches was full of floating inflatables; she likes to dream of all the fun her and I had climbing, jumping and sliding down the inflatables into the crystal blue water.
We dream of making unicorn cupcakes together, for her upcoming little sister’s birthday, and in her dream, all of our beloved out of town relatives will be at the birthday party, to see the cupcakes we made and celebrate with our family. Her new thing is prep (cheer leading), so in our dream plans I am the base, and she is at the top, being tossed in the air while doing her cheers.
Gratefully it is usually only one child at a time who has no interest in sleep, as they share a room. So we whisper through our big dream plans, while I rub their back. I usually end these moments with a spiel about how special they are and all the reasons I love them as big as I do. And that I will meet them in my dreams. They are almost always dozing off, comforted by the thought of seeing me in their dreams.
Just like adults, kids have trouble falling asleep for one reason or another. I think it is important to not make it a battle. This creates an unnecessary negative association to bedtime and perpetuates the problem. If my kids keep getting out of bed (most of the time they fall asleep without trouble), I allow the child to have a little special quiet time with Mom and Dad in the living room with the TV off. We keep the lights low, snuggle, talk about what’s on their mind and/or read a book. It it takes about 15 minutes and then I repeat our usual bedtime routine. I will also allow my 6 year old to read a book with low lighting in her room. This usually works! It will only work if you already have a well established bedtime routine that works for your family though 😉