The pandemic has affected us all, even kids. Children who are normally great sleepers may be struggling to get some rest. We talked to sleep expert Alanna McGinn to get some answers about why this may be happening, and how to help.
The Causes of Child Insomnia
- Stress from adapting to online school
- Missing seeing friends and teachers in person
- Uncertainty about the future
- Less fresh air or outdoor time
There are lots of reasons that kids might be struggling to sleep these days, and the fears and anxieties they may be experiencing can lead to insomnia and nightmares. If your kid is struggling to sleep, here are some things you can do.
1: Create Better Overall Structure
We know that children, no matter what, age thrive off of consistency and comfort in knowing what’s happening next. With better structure comes better parental engagement, time to address fears and worry, and a higher likelihood of setting limits. Make sure you add in lots of outdoor time for fresh air and exercise.
A big party of structure is a good bedtime routine. If your child is already feeling stress and anxiety, that time between bedtime and wake time can seem like a really long separation. Having a strong and connected bedtime could mean they don’t feel the need to look for that connection in the middle of the night. This attachment time could be just having bedtime conversations, reading stories together, using conversation activities, or having chats during your child’s relaxing bubble bath.
2: Use a Shared Journal
This is a great tip for both parents and kids! In a shared journal your child is able to write down any worries or concerns that they want you to know about and there is an understanding that you will read it. Sometimes it’s difficult for our children to admit their fears out loud but they want to share them with us. This shared journal can act as that bridge for communication between the two of you.
3: Mindfulness, Yoga, or Calming Techniques
Teaching children how to relax before bedtime through mindfulness, yoga, breathing techniques, and the power of positive thought can help relax your child’s body and quiet their minds making it easier for them to fall asleep.
4: Choose A Better Story
One of the things that often happens when kids with busy minds try and go to sleep is that they can’t quiet their brains, and the worrisome thoughts start to come in. Before bedtime, help your child choose a better story to occupy their mind as they try and drift off to sleep. You can make a small deck of cards that has ideas on what to think about such as:
- What do you want your next birthday cake to look like?
- Where would you like to go on vacation?
- What funny things do you think the dog/cat gets up to when we’re not home?
- What are all your favourite foods you’d bring on a picnic?
- Think of all the words you can that start with the letter M.
5: Manage Your Own Stress Levels
There is a reason why we put our own oxygen mask on first. We have to take care of our own parental sanity in order to help our kids. Kids are incredibly perceptive, and if they see that you’re in a negative headspace when it comes to sleep, it will be hard to get them in a more positive headspace.
It’s also important to monitor parental involvement. In terms of bedtime struggles try and step back and look at the situation. Is your involvement too much? Are you the last obstacle standing in the way of your child sleeping soundly at night? Your child is capable and perhaps you haven’t been giving them enough opportunity to show you their capabilities.
For more resources about children’s sleep issues, check out these sources:
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