MY CHILD HAS A HARD TIME FALLING ASLEEP: Tips for Parents
Tips for Parents
Children are not accurate reporters of feelings. What we as adults can express verbally, children may express via emotional outbursts, sadness, inability to sleep, poor appetite, hyperactivity (which can also be caused by masked anxiety and depression), and difficulty speaking. My daughters were two years old when they began experiencing difficulty falling asleep. It was a huge struggle getting them to fall asleep on their own. Sometimes I felt as though they became more talkative and energetic as the night progressed.
At two, my daughters were still on a nap schedule. Removing the nap would result in my kids becoming cranky and overly exhausted by 6pm. When night came around, they had a hard time falling asleep without me singing to them for hours. I had patience to sit with them, but I also noticed that my kids were simply not receiving the restful sleep they needed. Being a health care professional I was familiar with the latest approaches on how to get kids to sleep. Nothing worked. One night, when all hope seemed lost, I decided to try an NLP concept I had used with athletes as part of Peak Performance Training and adjust it to fit the developmental level of two toddlers. This was my last resort. And, IT WORKED!
One night just as my daughters were dozing off, I stood over them placing the palms of my hands on their eyes. ‘We are going to see good dreams.’ I spoke softly. I then cupped their little heads with my hands and whispered, ‘We are going to have happy thoughts.’ I finished by placing both my hands on their chest and whispered, ‘And we will feel happy feelings.’ The secret was CATCHING my daughters as they were naturally slipping into sleep. I knew the mind does not know what happens first, the natural sensations of ‘sleepiness’ OR my hand gestures followed by soothing statements. After catching the girls in the moment of falling into sleep (also known as the hypnagogic-state), their minds and bodies learned that when Dad says the phrase, ‘and we will feel good feelings,’ I have to fall asleep.
We created a wonderful bedtime tradition that my daughters still remember fondly many years since. Every night I would tuck the girls in and sing them a song. I would also tell them a story. Each would select a topic of her choice. One daughter would always ask me to tell her stories about princesses and unicorns. Her twin was harder to please. She wanted stories about magic peaches, flying worms and talking trains. But when all was said and done, I would kiss them on their foreheads, and say the three seemingly magical statements coupled with the hand movements: 1. We are going to see good dreams. 2. We are going to have happy thoughts. 3. We will feel happy feelings.