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Help Your Child Sleep!

As the mother of 5, I have learned that when it comes to the subject of sleep, different children need different approaches­. Just as, food-wise, there are three-meal­-a-day folks and all-day grazers, my kids vary from highly scheduled sleepers to serial siesta-tak­ers. I make sure that, whichever they are, they do have a set wake-up time. I also make sure they know how to take 20-minute recharging naps. As to bed-time, they are free to go to bed when they are tired. I do admit to making late nights boring, and turning lights off throughout the house at a set time (coincidin­g with my own bedtime), but they are free to stay awake all night long, if they choose, provided they are up and ready in the morning at the pre-set time.

Now, before you call this method something akin to child abuse, consider this: 1) Every child will be eager to try to stay up all night, whether or not you have a set bedtime. 2) If you take the parental disapprova­l out of it, you take away a lot of the allure. 3) Just a few instances of being headachy and dull from staying up all night is enough to cure most kids. My kids are self-monit­oring because they have tried doing it their way, and now see WHY we keep a good sleep schedule. When they are up past their normal bedtime, due to special activities­, an inordinate amount of study (they are in the AP and IB programs at school, so this is sometimes the case), or because of unusual circumstances beyond their control, they can take 20 minute recharging naps the next day, if needed, to keep their energy and alertness high.

Scientists who study sleep patterns say that such a short nap can take a person through one sleep cycle, and give the benefit of several hours of uninterrupted sleep over a short period of time, eliminating the incidence of careless errors, accidents and the like. I just know from personal experience that it works for me.

So, trust your kids. Ask them questions about how they like to sleep, how much sleep they think they need, what conditions make it easier or harder for them to sleep. Give them the responsibility for at least helping to set up those conditions for themselves. Then, unless there is a big problem, let them sleep. You'll sleep better, as well!

Comments

I wish I could send this to all parents, everywhere! Growing up, my parents had a very "strict" bedtime--in bed, lights out, by X PM. Then, they'd have me waking up by X AM. I would lie there awake, sometimes for hours, considering all the useful and/or fun things I could be doing. Since starting college, and living on my own, I've been able to adjust my sleep schedule to something that fits me quite well, instead of trying to sleep during the same hours every night! Overall, great blog, and your kids are lucky to have such an understanding mom. :)
I wish I could send this to all parents, everywhere! Growing up, my parents had a very "strict" bedtime--in bed, lights out, by X PM. Then, they'd have me waking up by X AM. I would lie there awake, sometimes for hours, considering all the useful and/or fun things I could be doing. Since starting college, and living on my own, I've been able to adjust my sleep schedule to something that fits me quite well, instead of trying to sleep during the same hours every night! Overall, great blog, and your kids are lucky to have such an understanding mom. :)
Dear Lana, Please feel free to copy and send it out to others you feel might benefit from it. As long as you put my name and e-mail as the author, that'd be great! You know, growing up as the third of twenty kids (yes, 20! - My folks had six the old-fashioned way, then adopted 14 more from all over the world, many with different disabilities.), I learned a great deal about which battles to choose. Especially at this time of the world, kids need to be taught to see and take responsibility for making their lives into what they want them to be. One of the things I strive to teach all my students is to take a look at who they are and how they learn, as well as what they need to do with what they know. If you really look at life with the end in mind, things become, if not easier, at least simpler. Thank you again for your comment! I appreciate it so much!
Dear Laura, I know just what you're talking about! Some of the best reading I ever did was in the wee hours of the morning! I remember reading the Lord of the Rings trilogy and shivering as I tried to sleep after reading about terrifying Gollum! I hope my kids can have the experiences so many kids are over-scheduled out of! The kinds of things they dream up on their own because they can! Thanks again for your comment!

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