Do you ever feel like bedtime is never over in your house? Are you up and down the stairs a million times before it’s finally quiet? Are you constantly getting cups of water? Do you get up in the middle of the night to change the sheets?
In my experience, a lot of parents struggle with bedtime – and what comes after. That’s why I’ve put together a short guide to help ensure that your evenings can be calm and relaxing again.
Challenge #1: Your children are climbing the furniture. You don’t know how you can force them into their beds, but you definitely don’t think they are going to fall asleep.
Solution #1: There’s a chance that your children have too much stimulation, but the more likely culprit is that bedtime is too late! When children get overtired (yes, there is such a thing), their bodies kick into overdrive and they get hyper. If you want to ensure that your children aren’t overtired, consistently get them into bed between 9½ and 11 hours before they have to get up in the morning. This will allow them to get the sleep necessary to function the next day.
Challenge #2: Every time you think you are done with bedtime, your child asks for another story or glass of water. Or, he tells you his socks don’t fit right.
Solution #2: Create a bedtime routine. This routine can include brushing teeth, washing faces, reading a book, telling a story, rubbing the child’s back, singing Shema, or any other calming ritual that your family enjoys. If possible, create a poster or small book with simple drawings so that your child can understand the routine. Then, explain that you will not deviate from the routine. The routine will allow your child’s body to understand that it is bedtime and is therefore time to relax. If you stick with the routine, your child will also eventually stop asking for those extra stories and cups of water.
If your child needs extra motivation, you can also create a chart for him with rewards at the end of a week of staying in bed quietly from bedtime until the morning.
Challenge #3: Your child is afraid of the dark or what’s in his closet.
Solution #3: Your child’s fears are very real and should not be ignored. That would only make them grow. However, bedtime is not the time to address those fears in a genuine matter. Therefore, if you are aware of the fears, sit down with your child and talk to him about what scares him. Explain to him that things are the same in the dark as in the light, but we just can’t see them. Help him look in the closet during the daytime. Read books about fears so he can see how other people overcame them. Maybe he will feel better with a night-light or a special doll to hug. That said, once you have done these things, bedtime is bedtime. Do the calming routine and put your child to bed.
Challenge #4: You stick to a bedtime routine, but your child still won’t go to sleep. And, even when he does, he wakes up throughout the night.
Solution #4: There are various disorders that can disrupt sleep. Among them: Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD), sensory processing disorder (SPD), previous traumatic experiences, or sleep apnea. These need to be addressed and diagnosed by a doctor, psychologist, or educational specialist. If these sleep issues persist, it is best to consult a professional.
Challenge #5: Your six-year-old child goes to bed without a problem, but consistently wets the bed.
Solution #5: Unlike daytime wetting, bed-wetting, or enuresis, is a more common occurrence than most people realize. According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, about twenty-five percent of 5-year-olds, and ten percent of 6-year-olds wet their beds. Bed-wetting is often attributed to a psychological or anxiety disorder, but new research is actually proving that this is not always the case. Below are some common causes of bed-wetting:
Genetics: If both parents wet their beds after the age of six, there is a 75% chance that the child will wet his bed as well. If only one parent wet the bed, there is still a 44% chance of bed-wetting.
Developmental Lag: Just as some children are late talkers or walkers, there are children who are late in controlling their bladder while sleeping. Eventually, even with a lag, all children learn to walk or talk. So too, they will learn how to stay dry at night.
Deep sleep: Some children sleep so deeply, they cannot recognize when their bladder is full and therefore do not have enough time to get to the bathroom.
Small bladder: Physically, the child might have a small bladder and therefore the bladder might overfill at night, causing nighttime urination.
While extremely frustrating to the parent, the American Academy of Family Physicians states that up until the age of six, bed-wetting is not abnormal. After the age of six, they suggest several methods in order to prevent it:
Limit fluids before bedtime.
Have your child go to the bathroom at the beginning of the nighttime routine and then again right before sleep.
Create a reward system for dry nights.
Ask your child to change the sheets after they get wet.
Have your child train his bladder by holding his urine for longer times during the day.
While encouraging your child to take responsibility for bed-wetting (like asking him to change the sheets), remember that it is important not to get angry or inflict guilt in your child. He is not bed-wetting because he is too lazy to get out of bed, so punishing him for actions that are beyond his control (and probably already cause him embarrassment) will only worsen the problem.
Anxiety: In some rare cases, bed-wetting can be triggered by anxiety. A divorce, move, or death in the family can significantly stress parents and children. The resulting change in lifestyle might prompt a child to begin bed-wetting. For instance, if the family moves from one city to another, parents might assume that the child is having trouble holding his bladder at night because of the emotional stress of leaving his old friends behind. However, the new floor plan of the house might be the true culprit. The child is not used to going to the bathroom down the hall, as he was used to the one right next door in his old home.
Finding the root of bed-wetting – whether genetic, physical, or emotional – is the first step towards curing it. Nonetheless, perhaps the most important thing to remember is that if your child had a choice, he wouldn’t wet his bed. Therefore, large servings of both compassion and patience are also necessary remedies for the problem.