Here’s the blog I promised listeners on my new regular once a month phone in on BBC Radio Surrey and Sussex “Ask Sue Atkins” my Parenting Q & A feature. This month it was about sleep.
Why not email in your questions to Sarah Gorrell and I will happily answer them.
Do your children wake you up multiple times in the night? Do you lay down with your kids in their bed until they finally fall asleep? Have your children’s sleep habits driven you to the point of madness and exhaustion?
I was doing a live webchat recently on babyexpert.com and the topic of sleep (or lack of it!) came up.
Have no fear – help is at hand!
I remember one night struggling to put my own kids to bed when they were around 2 and 4 when I found myself watching a war film about prisoner’s of war and sleep deprivation. I immediately identified with their feelings of feeling slightly detached and out of touch, and feeling a bit disorientated, confused and low due to exhaustion as we’d had a tough couple of weeks.
Lots of parents I work with struggle on for much longer than I did but here’s what I came up with and I hope it helps you – try it and let me know how you get on
I used to love the Tooth Fairy and magical things as a child, so I imagined a Sleep Fairy popping into our house sprinkling her magical fairy shimmering sleep dust over the kids and waving her magic wand full of deep sleep and magical dreams.
I got the kids together on the bed at story time and I was full of enthusiasm and said, “I’ve just heard that the Sleep Fairy is coming through Redhill tonight.”
The kids were intrigued and curious to hear more so I got all inspired and said, “The Sleep Fairy helps little children sleep all the way through the night. And when they sleep ALL the way through the night, without calling out or fussing or coming into Mummy’s bed during the night they receive a special little treat from her under the pillow just like when the Tooth Fairy comes.”
Now both of my children beamed at the idea that they could wake up to a surprise!
I read them their story, tucked them in, and said, “”Unless you have hurt yourself, you don’t need me. It’s time for falling asleep.” And I popped on their music and story tape (well, it was about 10 years ago now!) and kissed them goodnight.
Guess what! They slept through that night and woke up to a little toy and some coloured pencils.
Some mornings they didn’t make it through the night and the Sleep Fairy did not come.
Here are some ideas for using the Sleep Fairy to get your kids into a better routine
STEPS TO SUCCESS
• Be reasonable: Make specific, reachable goals that your children can achieve. If you’ve got into a bad habit with your child, give them the goal of only waking up once in a night to earn a visit from the Sleep Fairy. The key is to make the story fit your family and what you want to happen.
• Give clear instructions: Tell your child exactly what they have to do to get a visit. “When I say goodnight, you must stay in your bed and not call out.”
• Start by rewarding every night: You need your child’s behaviour to change if you’re ever going to sleep again so reward them every night for up to 30-days to change your child’s pattern. Then gently move to lots of praise or a sticker chart making it harder to get rewards for sleeping, but by then the new habit will have been established.
• Move to a more intermittent or random reward system once you see the behaviour established, tell your children the Sleep Fairy must help other children who have sleep problems. The Sleep Fairy will still visit once in awhile (randomly). Or if your child likes patterns and routines then tell them the Sleep Fairy will visit them every Friday night from time to time.
• Finally, let this system come to an end once the behaviour you want to see is established. Once you get your regular hours of sleep. It’s time for the Sleep Fairy to focus on other children in need. Help your kids to write a letter saying thank you for visiting and helping them and to say goodbye. Let your kids know that the Sleep Fairy must go and help other children who need her now.
• Children go through stages, don’t they! Some stages and upsets bring back old sleep habits and before you know it you’ve moved backwards again. So take this opportunity to call the Sleep Fairy back. Then start every night for a week, going to intermittent for a week and then say goodbye again.
There are lots of other ways to establish new routines for getting your kids to sleep but I hope you enjoy trying this one out and can stop feeling trapped in sleep prison!
And grab a copy of the lovely ” The Sleep Fairy” book written by Janie Peterson from Amazon to help too !
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About the author
Sue Atkins is a Parenting Expert who offers practical guidance for bringing up happy, confident, well behaved children. She is also the author of “Raising Happy Children for Dummies” one in the famous black and yellow series published worldwide and the highly acclaimed Parenting Made Easy CDs. She regularly appears on BBC Breakfast and The Jeremy Vine Show on BBC Radio 2 and her parenting articles are published all over the world.
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Sue Atkins the Parenting Expert
T: + 44 1883 818329 M: 07740 622769