Well, 2020 is turning out to be an interesting year so far, isn't it!
So many 'new normals' for us all to adjust to with things changing nearly daily, which is tough enough for us to get our heads around as adults, but is even harder for the little people in our lives.
I think we can all agree that these extraordinary times require some extraordinary measures to keep everyone sane and halfway functional. For some of us, that could mean some big adjustments to the usual routine, especially if you're unfortunate enough to need to self-isolate for any reason.
So I thought I'd take the chance to offer you a few ideas on how to maintain your sanity (if you have any left!) while helping to keep your little ones feel secure and well rested in these crazy times, as this can all make a big difference to how they sleep (and let's face it, if your child isn't sleeping, then neither are you!).
Stick to the script
I'm not going to tell you anything you didn't know here, but children like repetition. They like knowing that it doesn't matter how many times they do something, they are going to get the same result. This is part of how they develop and learn about the world. That’s why sticking to some sort of routine is SO important. I’m not saying it has to be a written schedule on the fridge that itemises their day to the minute, but some form of familiar structure to their days will help make them feel confident and secure in these crazy times. Predictability and consistency are a kids best friend, never more so than now.
Let’s just embrace screen time
I’d like to think that my girls generally had a fairly average amount of screen time before March this year, but I’m not ashamed to admit that I’ve been using the ‘electronic babysitter’ more than I would ever usually do for the last few months (especially when they weren’t at school and nursery). But that’s ok! I get that some parents are thoroughly embracing the time to do crafts and projects with their kids that they wouldn’t usually have time to do, and I wholeheartedly applaud their enthusiasm. Alas, I’m not one of those parents, and maybe you’re not either? And that’s ok too! If a little extra screen time for the kids means the difference between a peaceful afternoon and a mutual meltdown, then in the name of familial harmony, I’ll take the screen any day!
There’s just one caveat though; screens emit a lot of blue light which can interfere with the body’s natural body clock (circadian rhythm), so go ahead and let your kids indulge in extra screen time, but I suggest turning them off two hours before bedtime. (The screens, not your kids).
Keep ringing the dinner bell
A little known fact is that our mealtimes actually play a huge part in our bodies’ natural timings, so by keeping meal times fairly consistent, it means that everyone’s body clocks stay on track, so our cues for sleeping and waking also remain consistent.
It’s also worth thinking about any sugary snacks they might be having in the late afternoon/evening which can leave them with too much energy come bedtime and disrupt their sleep once they finally fall asleep as well as the occasional upset tummy. So keep an eye on how much junk food they’re getting into. I’ll
admit the snacks, much like screen time, have been flowing more freely in our house over the last few months!
Feel the sun on your skin
When you can, try to get outside for some sunshine as much as you’re able to (yes, that’s you as parents, not just the little ones). Sunlight will help maintain the (yes, you guessed it!) circadian rhythm and a bike ride or even a brisk walk can help reduce feelings of confinement and keep you and your kids from going stir crazy. Of course, if your little one is anything like my youngest, a walk is more of a ’stop’ as she inspects anything and everything we see. But even if that’s the case, try to take some deep breaths and just enjoy the moment (as frustrating as it might be).
And if it’s raining? If wellies and raincoats aren’t your thing, how about building a temporary indoor play area out of furniture and cushions? Or a den as we used to call it when we were kids. It can be a great project to keep your kids occupied and provide them with some stuff to climb on too.
Early to bed, early to rise?...
While many of us don’t have the frantic schedules we usually do when we’re dashing to get to work on time with so many of us still working from home, it can be tempting to let our normal timings slide a bit. And that’s ok. But actually, our bodies (as adults) like routine and consistency just as much as our kids. So trying to stick to a similar (if not identical) routine as we would usually have is really helpful (of course the occasional lie in is totally acceptable, if you can get it!).
Sometimes getting kids to bed at a reasonable time can be really hard work, so why not take this opportunity to carve out a routine that not only works now, but won’t need much tweeking when things return to normal?
Many parents I speak to worry that giving their little one an earlier bedtime means they’ll wake earlier - you may well be surprised to learn that it can actually in many cases be the opposite!
As you no doubt know, little ones, at any age, are pretty perceptive little creatures, and will already have worked out that there’s something pretty serious going on at the moment. Obviously, depending on the age of your child, depends on just how much information you might give them. They may seem completely oblivious to it, which is great. While others might be secretly listening to any tidbits of information they hear, which can of course end up a bit like Chinese whispers.
So I would suggest thinking about what you’re telling your children, and finding a balance between letting them know what’s going on (‘I’m sorry you can’t see your friends outside of school/nursery, because...’) and trying not to worry or scare them. This can be amplified if they see that their parents are concerned and on edge as well, so try to keep the atmosphere cheery and light if at all possible. I know it’s not easy given the circumstances, but stressed out kids aren’t going to improve the situation. If they have questions, of course you should be honest but it’s worth thinking about just how much information they need to know. Your positive attitude towards things will work wonders in keeping their minds at ease.
Little ones, just like adults, can be big thinkers as it’s approaching bedtime and during the night if they
wake. So trying to nip any concerns or worries they have in the bud should help to quell any issues they might have related to the current situation.
Seize the day
Maybe you were having issues with your little ones sleep before lockdown, or it’s just become a problem recently? When I’m working privately with clients, I always suggest that they put aside a couple of weeks to focus solely on getting their bundle of joy into a new routine, so now is actually the perfect time. If you need a hand, why not contact me to see how I can help or check out my Instagram or Facebook pages @easysleepsolutionsuk for more information.
And if it’s not your little one that’s having the problems with their sleep? I help adults too! Why not check out my website for more information www.easysleepsolutions.co.uk where you can also sign up for my Free Top Five Sleep Tips or book a free sleep assessment, where we’ll discuss the problems you or your little one are facing and how I can help you regain the sleep you so desperately need, because sleep is not a luxury.
By Sam Sadighi, Easy Sleep Solutions