Ahh, bedtime, for many of us parents who are raising children under the age of five, tends to be the most dreaded part of the day. And this is often for good reason because unless a toddler is extremely tired, he will totally resist going to sleep. This problem may be more troublesome to deal with if your little child has older brothers or sisters who tend to stay up later at night. Your child is bound to want to stay up late so that he does not “miss out” on anything that his siblings may be enjoying. And because those feelings are understandable, there is no harm in granting some extra stay-up privileges for your child. However, it is important to keep in mind that children this age need at least ten hours of sleep each night. A good nights sleep usually translates in a good day for our son. Here are some tips and guidelines that may help make the process a little bit easier.
The very best way to help prepare your child to get ready for bed is by reading him a story. This should be a nightly ritual in which your child recognizes that at the end of the story, the lights go out, and he must lay down to sleep. Once the night time story is indeed over, and you have said your good-nights, do not let your child attempt to stall you any longer than he already has. One thing we have started doing also that is extremely effective is playing soft bedtime music for our son, which I turn on right after his story. Check out our previous article on Music Therapy for Children.
Also, it is very important to not allow him to talk you into staying with him until he goes to sleep. Your child needs to get used to going to sleep on his own and if you are always there when he nods off to sleep, then he will always depend on you each and every time he goes to bed. Also,try to avoid any type of physical activity before bedtime as well. The more calm and comforting you give your toddler a few hours before it is time to sleep, the easier it will be for him to relax and get into the mindset of bedtime.
It is common for most children at this age to sleep through the night, but will often wake up to check out his surroundings before falling back to sleep. However, there may be nights when your child is having extremely active dreams that causes him to awake. Children this age have very vivid dreams that often represent the way he viewed the events of that day. They may reflect some impulse, aggressive feeling, or inner fear that only comes to the surface by way of these scary images or nightmares.
The older the child gets, perhaps after the age of five and up, the better he will be able to understand that these mental images are only dreams, but as a preschooler he may still need to be reassured that it is not real. As he awakes in the middle of the night crying and scared, immediately run to hold him while talking about the dream he had. Stay with your child until he is calm. And for your own peace of mind as you go back to sleep, do not forget that these are only dreams that your child is having and not a more serious problem.