4 Tips for Helping Your Child Sleep During a Separation
A separation or divorce brings a lot of change into a family, and so much change all at once can feel exhausting. While you might find that crawling into bed is just what you need after a long day, you may have noticed your child having a harder time getting to sleep. It's not uncommon for children to have trouble sleeping through the night. In fact, 20-30% of school-aged kids face these issues with anxiety cited as the cause. As a separation or divorce can often stir many feelings in a child including anxiety, it's important for parents to consider positive ways to help their child to work through tough emotions and get back to sleeping through the night. Here are 4 tips to consider for helping your child to sleep during a separation.
Strive for a lasting solution
When a child can't sleep, they may walk over to their parent's bed and ask if they can crawl in. While you might already know that letting your child sleep with you will help them get back to sleep, this might not be the route you always want to take. Letting your child sleep in your bed every night could make it harder for them to sleep on their own in the long run. Look for ways to offer your child the comfort they need in order to get back to sleep. Nightlights, soft music, and dream catchers are just a few little items that can have a significant impact on helping your child feel comfortable in their own space. A small toy or stuffed animal that they can take between your homes may also offer that comfort they need when trying to sleep in either of their beds.
Keep up a routine
Create a routine that your child can count on after a long day. Help your child get ready for bed even well before they lay their head on their pillow by keeping things calm and collected in your home for the ladder part of the evening. Whether you read stories, watch videos, or just chat about your day, keep the bedtime routine predictable in your home. You may even consider a quick bedtime phone call or video chat with the parent that is away so that your child has a chance to say goodnight to both of you. Even if the routine differs slightly in your co-parent's home, it's still important that your child can count on this time with you before bed.
Keep the conversation going
Your recent separation or divorce may be causing your child to feel an excess of emotions. Even so, other things going on in their life could be creating unease for them as well like worries about school assignments or concerns about friends. Talk to your child about all of the things that are going on in their life. Let them speak openly to you about what they're feeling, even if some of it is upsetting to you. Offer reassurance to your child, particularly when it comes to family matters. Let them know that both you and their other parent love them no matter what, and while there are a lot of changes happening right now, you will all be there for each other and things will get better. Do your best to do the same when it comes to outside anxieties. You were a kid too once, so if you can, tell your child about a time where you faced an issue similar to what they're dealing with and how you got through it. It may be reassuring to them to know that you were able to overcome what they're facing now.
Talk to your co-parent
Keep a dialogue open with your co-parent about your child's sleeping habits in each of your homes. Coming to an agreement about bedtime routines and sleeping arrangements is great, but you may find that you disagree on some points. Focus on what you can control, which means maintaining the routine you've set in your home. If concerns about your child's sleeping habits arise, speak to a family law or mental health professional who can help you find a working solution to this matter.
Even if you don't agree on every matter concerning your child's sleeping habits, share what you've observed with your co-parent. Try keeping a journal about your child's sleep schedule, noting things like how long it took them to fall asleep and what the bedtime routine was like. Share these notes with your co-parent so that they have an idea of how your child has been doing on the nights that they are with you. This could help your co-parent to maintain the bedtime routine on the nights that your child transitions over to their home.
Helping your child get back to sleeping well in the midst of a separation or divorce can be challenging. Stick to strategies that can help your child sleep well on their own, and do your best not to allow for too many setbacks.
Sign up for the OurFamilyWizard Newsletter to get the latest articles and more from OFW!