Many children struggle in winding down and getting to sleep. They have been learning so much through play or learning at school throughout the day. They have been taking in social cues and learning about friendships and relationships. Some children find it difficult (as do some adults) in relaxing their body and their thoughts as they wind down ready for bed and sleep.
When a child struggles to wind down and get to sleep, it not only impacts on their level of fatigue, behaviour and learning the next day but it also impacts on parents and carers as they aren’t able to have some adult time to develop relationships with partners or wind down themselves. As a parent, I’ve experienced times when children find getting to sleep hard and it does make for a long day and it does impact on ‘me-time’.
As a parent, you can create some routines that will support your child in winding down and getting ready for bed. Sometimes simple changes to the routine can make a massive difference but for some children you may need to seek advice from your family doctor, family health nurse, occupational therapist or psychologist. Here are some tried and true techniques that you can test out at home to make the evening routine easier.
Encourage active time after school
Exercise not only ‘wears kids out’, but it helps to release any stress chemicals (e.g. cortisol and adrenaline) that they might have created at school or during the day. It creates a feeling of well-being and being relaxed.
Reduce screen time
Ideally have no screen time for children 1 – 2 hours prior to bed time. This includes tablets and TV. While TV and tablets may appear to be calming for children (as they are engrossed in the game or show) they are not calming for the brain and actually stimulates it, making it harder to get to sleep.
Create a routine
Families that have a routine help create boundaries and a feeling of safety for children. They know what’s coming up, they can relax into the routine. Put the routine in pictures and/or words on a notice board so kids know what’s coming up.
Within your routine, schedule timer interaction with adults
Have conversation, ask them how their day was and be interested in their lives. This also helps them feel safe and secure in themselves.
Do some stretching and breathing with your child
Stretching and breathing, such as kids’ yoga, helps to calm and relax the body. There are lots of online resources for ideas.
Test out some deep touch pressure
Deep touch pressure, such as a massage is extremely calming. For kids, use an exercise ball to ‘squish’ them. Get them to lie down on the floor on their tummy and put some nice firm pressure through the ball onto their back as you roll it over. Make a ‘pizza’! Ask them what topping they would like as you use them as the pizza dough!
Encourage them to experiment
Experiment with giving themselves a hand massage, enjoy a nice warm, long bath and use calming essential oils if there are no allergies.
Our lives are so busy and often kids get caught up in the busy-ness of life. If your child is struggling to wind down, try one or two of the above tips and create one or two blocks of time each week to chill out and relax.