Ah yes, the bedtime stalling. “Mom, I need to go to the bathroom.” “Dad, I need some water.” “Mom, what’s the meaning of life?” “Where do babies come from?” It seems our children love to ask the deepest of questions and have a desire to be the most open at all the wrong times.
But what most parents don’t realize is that our little ones sometimes have a hard time putting into words things like, “I don’t know how to fall asleep without you,” or “Feeling close to you is when I feel most safe.” or “I feel nervous about falling asleep.”
We have to consider that we, or their caretakers, are with our children all day. Bedtime is the one instance throughout their day when they have to be alone, and for most kids, this feels unknown and scary, especially when they’re young.
So before you conclude that your child is disobedient, consider their heart, not their behavior. Parenting often requires us to do a little digging and put ourselves in their shoes before we can help them.
At the same time, the sooner your child can learn to be okay going to sleep on their own, the better. If you keep giving in to their bedtime demands when they’re young, it can be a huge struggle for parents later on.
So what do we do?
Consider these things before you put them to bed that could be contributing to their bedtime anxiety
- Are they being fed nutritional foods throughout the day?
It’s no surprise that food makes a significant impact on our child’s behavior and overall well-being. If they are being fed processed or high-sugar foods, especially before bed, this could contribute to their inability to calm down and feel tired. For susceptible children highly impacted by food, playing around with their diet to see if something is triggering them might prove beneficial. I know for my son, dairy, and gluten really affect him negatively. I try to keep him on a mostly keto/canivore-style diet with whole foods and it helps immensely.
- Are they getting adequate amounts of exercise and sun throughout the day?
Sunshine and playtime. I can’t say enough about the benefits of getting your kids outside during the day, even in the midst of winter. Let them walk in the grass and dirt and stay grounded. As a culture, we’ve sadly resorted to putting a screen in front of our child’s face when they seem bored.
Even though there is a time and a place to give them screens, it’s important to consider how it will impact them, especially with self-regulation. If we don’t allow them to learn how to entertain themselves and figure out creative ways to be entertained, then we will be doing them a disservice, not only in their childhood for their lives to come.
Getting enough vitamin D through the sun will have incredible effects on their nighttime schedule and getting them to sleep soundly.
- Are they sleeping soundly?
Many children are facing a very real struggle with sleep disorders and issues getting a restful night’s sleep. This can make them feel anxious about going to bed. Suppose you notice they are teeth grinding or restless during their sleep.
In that case, you may want to bring them in for evaluation by a functional doctor who will look at their overall health and ensure they don’t have parasites or are depleted of vital minerals and nutrients. Also consider your environment.
Are you living in a moldy home? Could you benefit from an air filter near the bed? Having been through all of these things, I know how much it helps to consider all aspects of their diet and environment and make sure they are getting adequate amounts of outside playtime. It’s not normal for kids to not be sleeping soundly. Do some research and see if there is something you can change to help them sleep restfully.
- Are you spending adequate amounts of time with them throughout the day?
I know my kids struggle with letting me go at bedtime when they feel like I don’t have enough quality time with them throughout the day. This can be as simple as doing something intentional that they want to do in 15-minute increments throughout the day. Make sure you are focused and acknowledge their presence. Even when you aren’t directly playing with them, you can do little things to make them feel seen and heard.
Here are a few ways to help your kids feel close at bedtime
After considering all of the factors that could be dismantling your best efforts in getting them to bed, you might find that your child’s inability to go to bed on their own is simply because they just want more of YOU. This can be solved by these few tips.
Try saying these things:
“I will come check on you in a few minutes. Snuggle with your stuffy until I get back!”
“Can you watch over my sweater until I come back to check on you? It smells like me and it will be like I’m right here!”
“Here’s a picture of all of us. Keep it with you and it’s like I’m right here.”
Try doing these things:
- Read a bedtime story or bible story with them before bed
- Allow them some awake alone time in their rooms either reading or playing
- Dim the lights and get their brains ready for sleep mode
- Don’t allow screens right before bed
- Hold them or rub their back while they are falling asleep
- Ask them how their day was and process the good things that happened
- Let them list off 3 things they are grateful for
- Pray with them and ask them how you can pray for them
- Sing songs with them
- Change up the bedtime routine
- Check on your child after you tuck them in so they know you aren’t gone for good
- Be more aware of their sensory needs before bed
- Be gentle and affirming that you are always there
- Reassure them that just because you are in the other room doesn’t mean you’ve left them alone
Remember that your children simply want to feel close to you at all times, and a lot of bedtime anxiety is caused by separation. This doesn’t mean you need to lay with them for two hours until they fall asleep, but rather, remind them and assure them that you are still close.
What are some things you do at bedtime to help your children fall asleep?
Also, check out 15 Phrases to Say to Your Kids at Bedtime