So, the day has nearly or finally arrived for our beloved little ones to return to school. Yippee!!! I can see all the mums fist pumping the air and doing a happy dance around an empty house right now 😊
I’m sure many children are looking forward to going back and catching up with their friends again. But equally there will be some apprehension for most. Here’s a few tips to boost our kids’ confidence and tackle their anxiety about returning to school during the pandemic.
ADDRESS OUR OWN ANXIETIES
Children pick up on parent and carers fears and anxieties, so if we are worried, they’ll think there’s something to be afraid of and that they too should be scared.
PAINT A POSITIVE PICTURE
Help them view returning to school optimistically by telling them about the fun things they will get up to, such as painting, play dough, and reuniting with friends. And answer any questions they’ve got to help them feel prepared.
If they can use their vivid imaginations to visualise going back to school positively, they’ll be more inclined to experience that on the actual day. This focuses their attention on what they want, instead of what they don’t want. Getting them to imagine waking up to their favourite breakfast and getting ready in their new school uniform, with their new shoes, lunch box, backpack and pencil case, builds anticipation and excitement, while increasing their confidence and motivation.
RE-ESTABLISH ROUTINE WITH WARNINGS AND REMINDERS
Routines help children to feel relaxed and confident when they’re given notice and know what to expect, when and why? Offer plenty of warnings and reminders fifteen to ten minutes beforehand, such as at meal and bedtimes, to mentally and physically prepare them.
Sleep is vital in restoring children’s mental and physical development and growth. Set a regular bedtime time and routine for a good night sleep, such as, 7pm -bath, brush teeth, bedtime story. Keep to this even at the weekend.
Exercise is important to childrens emotional as well as physical wellbeing. Children who exercise learn and concentrate better at school, improve their memory and release endorphins, reducing or preventing depression or anxiety. Wean them off the screen using the ‘Bursts of Fitness 15 Minute Rule’ For every fifteen minutes of sedentary play, i.e. Watching TV, they then have to take a break to run up and down the stairs/garden/hallway or wherever is suitable and convenient, fifteen times, before they resume watching TV for another fifteen minutes. Repeated every fifteen minutes.
3 HAPPY THINGS
Before bed ask them to think of three thing’s they were happy for in their day, remembering the good parts keeps them grateful and focused on the positives.
THE BOTHER BOX
Prevent worries building up in their head or going unaddressed by creating a ‘Bother Box’. Find an old shoebox and ask your child to decorate it as they choose with paint, crayons, or stickers. Buy a pack of copier paper and whenever they’re bothered by something, encourage them to draw a picture of whatever is bothering them and place it in the box. Then sit down together and go through the concerns in the box. As they get older, they can exchange drawing pictures for writing their worries down on post it notes, or in a journal or diary.
These are positive statements said as if they’re already true, used to counteract and overcome a negative, unhelpful belief, relieve fears and anxiety, and to reaffirm something wanted. If they are nervous about returning to school, affirmations can bring about positive thoughts and feelings.
Ask them to practice saying aloud;
‘I enjoy going to school and playing with all my friends.’
Giving our children tools and techniques such as these, gives them coping mechanisms and preventative tools to manage their thoughts and feelings, before they need them.
Mumatherapy Facebook Friendship Group
As mum’s we also need some support sometimes too, that’s why Happy Childcare has now set up its Facebook Mumatherapy Support Group. It’s a friendship support group for Mum’s that’s intended to be a safe place to air our inner most thoughts and feelings, with like-minded others, in a closed, supportive group. Sharing helpful parenting advice and providing some helpful tools and techniques, to alleviate stress and anxiety and increase confidence and self -esteem, such as, hypnosis, guided meditations, EFT and affirmations and quotes. The only goal is to love one another like you would your best friend or sister, without judgement. It’s also a place to share the joys of motherhood too and your own successes and achievements. A positive place to feel loved, loving and lovable. Please join with an open mind.
In these empty days of lockdown, for once, it gives us the opportunity to do all those tiresome jobs we’ve been putting off. My filing cabinet and accounts are in the best shape I’ve ever seen them, while my husband’s been doing all those odd jobs around the house that he never usually has the time to get done!
As a parent to a young toddler you may already have your hands full, especially if you have older siblings at home that you now need to home-school but this is the ideal time for lots of parents to potty train.
I’ve been potty training (as its termed, I’d rather call it ‘toilet coaching’) toddlers for the past 16 years and I know that, in those first few years it wasn’t a task that I relished. Now however, I’ve found if the timing is right and the child is ready and the environment is supportive, toddlers will more or less train themselves, with a little fuss and excitement that is!
As parents we just have to make it an enjoyable experience for our children and try to allay our own anxieties. This new routine of using the toilet independently takes a lot of skill and practice to master, but if they are ready, master it – they will!
ARE THEY READY?
So, if you think your childis ready, that is they can,
Understand basic instruction, I find many children can’t articulate themselves well at this age but they understand lots. They have the vocabulary and understanding tucked up inside their heads even though they may not yet use it verbally, that’s why it often feels like they start talking in sentences overnight, so even if they cant say what they want, if they can understand what you want them to do such as ‘Sit on the potty’ this is a good indicator.
Also, they may not like the wet or dirty cold discomfort of a soiled or wet nappy and may tug at it, point or lay down as if to say ‘Change my nappy now!’ this too is a good indicator.
As well as if they notice they need to go to toilet before they go or display signs to you, they are about to go. In my experience I’ve witnessed children going to hide behind the sofa and curtain or hold onto their nappy, especially at a certain age, when they start to feel a bit more self -conscious and like to go somewhere private as we normally would when we use a toilet in a bathroom. Or they suddenly stop what they’re doing and make a funny face as if to hold it in or their face flushes as they are straining to let it go. They become aware they have wet or soiled. They can often tell you if they have the vocabulary to do so such as saying ‘poo, poo’ although I’ve found this term can mean either a wee or a poo some don’t differentiate between the two. At this stage though they may still not be able to let you know they are about to go to toilet before they actually go, but there maybe physical signs as above such as going to a certain place when they feel the need to go. At this stage we have to be proactive as parents and observe our children carefully, taking the lead from their cues. Another cue is some children have bowel movements at a certain time each day like clockwork, this is so useful to know when it comes to toilet coaching. If we know little Johnny has a poo at around 11am we can have the potty at hand ready and waiting to limit the mess of an accident. As their bladder capacity increases their nappies will remain dry for longer periods of time too which is a good sign they can hold on.
If they can then hold on until they reach their potty or the toilet, remove their clothing and sit on the potty or toilet, then they’re ready, although this will take some practice. There are things we can do to help such as dressing them in clothing that is easy to remove. I prefer to toilet train when the weather is nice, usually during the school holidays when there’s no school runs or too many children. Easter or May half term or the six- week summer holidays are ideal. We can allow our children the freedom to run around in just their pants and a vest around the house as the temperature is warm and this is the easiest clothing to remove. Its also usually the time when we take time off to spend with our family. At the moment time home with our family is something most of us have.
I’ve found children between 2-3years take to toilet coaching a lot quicker, any younger and its difficult for them to control their bladder or rectum and any older, their voluntary control sometimes becomes a bit lazy as they haven’t been practicing, but there’s no exact age to start, only you will know your unique, individual child, even if you’ve got ten children, each and every one of them will be different and will learn things at different times and at different rates. Their siblings may all have potty trained at 18months but if little Johnny is two and a half and still not ready then you have to wait until they are.
LEARNING TO GROW UP
I usually set aside two weeks if possible, of no going out to soft play etc… and focusing solely on the goal of toilet coaching.
I also find it very helpful if I have more than one child of appropriate age, who is ready also, to coach both children together. This way they motivate and learn from one another.
What I’ve found over the years is that children love to grow up and do the things the older children or us grown ups do, which is more than helpful at times like these.
Many parents buy their children a potty to play with from a young age, way before they are ready to understand what it’s for. I personally don’t recommend doing this as over the years I’ve encountered children who do just that- play with their potties or use them as seats to sit on, especially now you can buy these fancy thrones that sing and light up.
I know we want to make the process attractive and fun but most children I find are naturally drawn to the big toilet, especially washing their hands afterwards with the liquid soap in the sink. They don’t want more singing toys; they want to be like us. We are their greatest role models, I know for most of us its almost impossible to use the toilet ourselves without an audience of little people tagging along, and this can be good, especially if you have a son following his father and observing and imitating his dad, this helps him to learn, likewise, our daughters can learn from us mums.
It’s also great when our children attend childcare settings such as a childminder’s, where they are surrounded by children of various ages, at some point they will experience being the baby or youngest child, middle child and then the oldest and they learn from the other children and copy them. This is great when it comes to toilet coaching as they will see the big boys going to the bathroom to use the big toilet and will naturally want to be just like one of them.
It seems ironic that – the bathroom or toilet is the one place I stop the babies and nappy wearing toddlers going into, one -through fear of germs while crawling round the ubend and two- losing toys or ornaments down the loo (this is more common than you may think!) so the banned room as you can imagine is their run to place as soon as my back is turned. Its attractive because its somewhere they know I don’t want them to go without me!
We don’t want to create germ phobia particularly now in this time when they will already be watching us obsessively handwashing and disinfecting the house several times a day, due to the current coronavirus epidemic. Yes, it’s more important now than ever before to wash our hands thoroughly and teach our children how to do so, but again we must make this a fun experience not get neurotic. If they have an accident in the bath that looks like a scene from ‘Kevin and Perry -Go Large’ then don’t panic, keep calm, cool and collected, this is what we call a learning opportunity.
They don’t do this on purpose to upset us so, just remove them from the bath while explaining to them what has happened, where its come from, how it’s a normal bodily function to get rid of what his body no longer needs, and give it a name so he can recognise it.
Remember babies and toddlers seldom get to see their faeces, its in their nappies which we change so, being able to see it helps them to identify with it, I call it ‘Poo, Poo’ your child may find a better or at least a funnier name for it. Just be consistent when referring to bodily waste so your child is clear what you mean when you say it, so for example, if your child likes to use the term ‘Wee, Wee’ you may throw them when you ask them to go for a ‘Pee, Pee’.
NOW IS NOT A GOOD TIME
Sometimes though they maybe ready but we aren’t, this is what happened to me with my first child, I had just arrived home from the hospital after giving birth to my second child and was in the middle of breastfeeding him when she announced ‘I need a wee wee on the potty!’ and ripped off her nappy.
No way I thought as I flew up from my seat to come to her aid, but she just did it…. sat down and wee’d and that was that. I was relieved and over joyed she had achieved her first independent pee on the potty and she was chuffed to be getting all the attention. And that was that. ‘No more nappies’ used to be our daily mantra!
And it worked, she put on her big girl knickers and basically toilet trained herself with little coaching from me. I know I was lucky, I’m not bragging, I’m sure her baby brother coming along and hogging her lime light helped in her gaining the praise and attention she was used to, so the timing although initially I didn’t feel was right- worked out perfect!
But we had done other things leading up to it, such as reading books about potty training so she could associate the potty with going to toilet, not as an object to play with or sit on. I kept the potty in the cloakroom toilet so it had a place too, so she understood we only go to toilet in this place.
But you also need to feel ready, ‘toilet coaching’ is just another new routine that you and your child will need to get used to and like all new routines it requires patience, energy, and understanding on everyone’s part.
The secret to successful ‘toilet coaching’ will largely depend on how patient we are and how we encourage our children to use the toilet or potty.
It means showing unconditional love even when they’ve had an accident or wet their pants for the eighth time that day. It’s tempting to expect them to change overnight because we want them to, but children won’t change if we force or rush them.
HANG IN THERE & PERSERVERE
Routines present opportunities to learn new and better ways of doing things, but they are best carried out in a calm, relaxed, and patient manner. Telling them off or rushing them is unproductive. So regardless of their age, I think more important is understanding your child and their needs and choosing a time when you personally feel both mentally and physically strong and determined. It’s easier for us to give up and put the nappy back on our children if we are tired or frustrated ourselves.
We just have to take it one day at a time. No matter how much we prepare our children or no matter how prepared we think we are, we will still find toilet coaching difficult at times, likely when we are mopping up yet another puddle in the living room or worse. That’s why we need to choose a time when we can commit one hundred percent and start as we mean to go on. Once we have decided to go for it and they are using pants and not nappies we need to keep the momentum going. Going back to nappies only tends to confuse children and means any effort made previously in toilet coaching was all in vain and a total waste of time, tears, effort, and energy.
WHEN SHOULD WE WORRY?
I do however, know of children who have been toilet training for years, there can be a number of factors why this happens including, physical developmental issues or emotional ones but on the whole, setting those issues aside, if your child is ready the process will be more like weeks before they are dry throughout the day rather than years, so don’t worry.
The word enuresis derives from the Greek word ‘to make water.’
When children initially start potty/toilet training, we can’t expect them to be dry at night, overnight. Taking precautions to protect the bed such as using waterproof sheets and putting them in pullups to sleep in is a sensible option, along with expecting night-time wetting. While in a deep slumber, a child’s muscles relax, making them unable to notice they need a wee until they are wet.
If they are under five, then it shouldn’t present much of a concern, especially in the toilet training stages. Making sure they use the toilet just before bed so they don’t fall too deeply asleep and have an accident or wake up needing to go to the toilet in the middle of the night helps.
It’s also a good idea to limit or stop the amount of fluid they drink prior to bedtime, offering only sips of water after four thirty pm, not milk or juice.
If they have not gone more than a few months dry at night after successful potty training in the day, they could have a developmental issue with their bladder, this can be hormonal and usually nothing to worry about. There are treatments available, and you can discuss these with your doctor. They could also have a small bladder capacity, if this is the case, you will probably notice that they urinate often throughout the day and find they are often desperate to go. They may wet at night due to emptying their bladder too frequently during the day. Either way, it’s always advisable to consult your GP if you are concerned at all.
If they’re still bedwetting past six years of age, medical causes, as well as emotional factors, need to be looked into with their doctor to rule out any medical condition. Once they have been dry at night for several months to a year but then regress back to wetting at night, this nocturnal enuresis would suggest some sort of emotional stress or anxiety is responsible. If your GP has ruled out a physical problem such as a water infection, we can be proactive by looking for any apparent patterns, such as, do they only bed wet on certain days such as school days and not at the weekend?
Does it happen early on in the night or toward the end near morning time, when mum is on night watch or dad, how often a night/a week/ a month does it occur?
Are there any causes that influence the episode, such as this current change in our lifestyles due to lockdown?
Our children’s fears and insecurities may seem so trivial and insignificant to us, but the smallest changes can have a huge impact. Looking at what is currently going on in other areas of their life is helpful. This is where the U URSELF Routine comes in handy, we can notice if another area such as their eating or exercising and play habits have changed too. (You can read more on this in my book The Confident Parent’s Guide to Raising a Happy, Healthy & Successful Child.)
This current situation can be stressful for a small child, especially if their normal daily routines have been disrupted.
What we want to do is focus on what we want them to achieve, not on what we don’t want. Highlight the positives, such as the dry nights, and ignore the wet ones as best we can in the presence of our children. We can encourage and motivate them by offering to buy them some nice new pjs or bedding with their favourite tv cartoon characters on them once they have successfully gone a whole week with a dry bed. How we phrase that reward is important, so keep it positive and focused on the dry bed. Instead of saying you can have a new pair of pjs if you don’t wet the bed. We want to motivate them for staying dry, not put pressure on them not to wet the bed. When they do succeed going one night dry, we want to make the biggest fuss possible by showering them with praise and exaggerating how happy we feel for them, this is a chance to give their esteem a boost!
GIVE THEM RESPONSIBILITY
What we don’t want our children to do is form a habit of bedwetting for either attention or feeling they have no control over their bedwetting. In no circumstances should we encourage this behaviour further and be tempted to bring back the pull up training pants for bed time. Once out of nappies and pull ups for several months, they are through with that baby phase of development.
What they need most now is responsibility over their progress, they can’t do this by going backward in how we treat them. They need to feel the wet cold discomfort to register they are wet, and this is something we want to motivate them to avoid in the future. A nice cosy, warm, dry, comfortable nappy or pull up, only motivates them to stay passive in their development. There’s no urgency to progress by controlling their bladder. I’ve potty trained many toddlers over the years, and I’ve always used pants and knickers over commercial pull ups, a cheap pack of pants are usually cheaper than pull ups, and we can throw the soiled ones away if needs be, the same way we would a disposable nappy. But children learn far quicker by having accidents that they can feel and see. A pull up still feels like they are wearing a nappy, so I’ve found when parents choose this as a toilet training option, progress is much slower. I know pull ups are safer, easier, and less messy, but long term, they just delay the process. A couple of weeks of accidents, patience, and practise in real pants is the quickest and best long-term, effective, solution.
And they will feel confident to try if they are given encouragement to do so. Our aim is for them to take conscious control over their issue, not be a passive allower. Fostering this self-reliance is what will help them to build self- confidence, making them feel they can handle situations themselves. They don’t feel guilty or as though we are punishing them if they feel they are helping in some way and having choices and responsibility. Children want to be independent, that is why there is often conflict and tantrums, because they want to be able to do things for themselves. Managing conflict and tantrums is covered extensively in my other book, The Powerful Proactive Parent’s Guide to Present Parenting.
Children only fail if they fail to try. Highlighting their successes should be our main focus. One wee on the potty is better than none at all, they haven’t failed because they had an accident while toilet training, they’ve succeeded at least once by trying.
They will learn their most memorable lessons through failure, and these will be the lessons they will tend to not want to repeat again. Allowing them to fail can be difficult, failure is deemed far from being successful, but they learn how to overcome obstacles and challenges firstly by observing us and seeing how we react to situations (so getting angry, frustrated or upset over some spilt wee on the floor won’t help) and secondly they learn more from doing than being told. I’m an advocate for what I call ‘Present Parenting’.
Present Parenting is consciously parenting by staying present in the moment and being aware of everything going on around us. It’s thinking before we respond, not just about what’s going on, but how and why? It’s understanding our children’s behaviour and how they are feeling and taking all of this into consideration. Although, we can only experience this when we learn to lighten up and see things how they really are instead of catastrophising and making mountains out of mole hills.
Have you ever heard the saying, ‘If you don’t laugh, you’ll cry?’
I know it can be hard at times. I had to fight back the tears when my two- year-old threw our brand new digital SLR Camera into a potty full of pee!
It would’ve been one of those perfect memory making moments to capture and look back on and laugh at years later now she’s a teen. But at that time, the camera stopped working!
Our children’s behaviour can be challenging, but is it really all that seriously bad?
And finally, don’t feel intimidated or compare you or your child to those so-called perfect parents who magically toilet trained their baby of 12 months over night. Every child is different and develop at different rates, its not a competition, so relax.
This can be a very rewarding time for both you and your child, they will feel pride and achievement once they master this new routine like a ‘big boy’ or ‘big girl’ which they will love immensely, but it can also be an emotional time, especially for you as a parent as its one of the first signs that your baby is growing up!
Stay Proactive, but most importantly Stay Present,
After environment, other physical factors such as Illness and pain can be a cause of sleep disruptions. If a child has a fever or rash, are severely lethargic or unresponsive, then we can assume they’re ill and need immediate medical attention. Teething or colic pain is not always visible but should subside of its own accord. Not helpful when trying to get a good night’s sleep, I know, but there are over the counter remedies to help with this period. If constant over a few days, then it may not be teething. You should always contact your GP or out of hours if you are concerned. Even if it turns out to be teething, it’s always best to get it checked, as our children can’t let us know how they are feeling. But we can usually visually tell or sense if our children are responding differently, always follow your gut instinct, you know your child better than anyone else.
If unsure of the severity of their pain, there’s a general test I like to recommend; next time they awake crying at night, let them hop into bed with you. If their pain magically disappears as soon as they jump into bed, it’s not going to be pain keeping them awake.
We can be sure pain is not the cause of their sleeplessness because pain remains, regardless of where or who they sleep with.
If your child has a chronic medical condition or they have experienced stress or trauma, such as a parent leaving, you might feel sorry or guilty and encourage them to co-sleep with you for comfort. We need to reflect on the beliefs we have around our children’s illnesses or circumstances to see if we are trying to overcompensate unnecessarily. Asking ourselves honestly whether they need our comfort to help them go to sleep, or whether we are interfering with their necessity to sleep alone because of our own emotions and beliefs.
Are we looking for comfort and company, or projecting our own fears and anxieties onto them?
If they are ill or under any sort of stress, they will need to sleep more than ever.
It’s tempting to comfort and soothe them to sleep at these difficult times but when will the cut-off point be? The odd night is normal such as when they are sick or have had a bad dream, but if we make it a regular habit, we could still be sleeping with our teenagers!
I know all those attachment parents out there who believe co-sleeping is best will be going wild right now, everyone’s entitled to parent their own way. I’m not saying my way is right and their way is wrong, but I have a strong attachment bond with my children, and we haven’t co-slept.
Attachments come from love, and I believe routines provide all the love and comfort our children need to feel safe, secure, healthy, and happy. Routines make us proactive and responsive as parents, helping us meet the needs of our children before they desperately need them. Mums need a good night sleep to be emotionally and physically available to their children.
We also need to maintain a loving relationship with our partners to keep that bond strong too, something sharing a bed with our children makes impossible.
I’ve encountered many parents who have this attachment parenting style, who reject routine and let their children choose what they eat, wear, and when and where they sleep. Personally, I’ve not found these children any happier than any other child. I don’t think children are experienced or capable of making the best choices for themselves. Given the choice, what child wants to go to bed early, on their own, or eat vegetables over chips?
That doesn’t make us unfair for insisting they do though. But that’s just my opinion. I’m an advocate for having close physical contact with your child. I kiss and cuddle my teenagers, and tell them I love them more than once every day, and have done so since they were born.
I also encourage them to be themselves and express how they feel and comfort and reassure them in times of need. But even though they are teenagers now, I still know what’s best for them, and yes, they both still have a bedtime routine and are in bed at a set reasonable time on a school night. Call me old fashioned, but I want them to get all the rest they can and to feel refreshed for school the next day. Obviously, they’d prefer to be on their electronic devices, but we take them off them at bedtime so they can’t. I’m not punishing them though. I’m helping them.
I encourage you to try letting your child lead the way if you want to experiment, then come back to a routine if that’s not working.
It’s a lot harder to provide consistent routines and to encourage our children to adopt healthy eating and sleeping habits, but that’s the kind of nurturing that being a parent is all about. They can spend the rest of their adult lives making their own independent choices regarding what’s right for them, until then, let’s show them the healthiest ways.
As previously said, we offer our children routines for their own good, out of love. That doesn’t mean that they are going to feel good about them in the beginning though.
If we have co-slept with our child for the last six years, but now would like them to move into their own bed in their own room, then we need to understand how they might feel. From their perspective, we’re telling them to move from the shared, warm, safe comforts that they have always known to the cold, lonely, dark, unknown room across the landing.
Understandably, this new bedtime routine would upset them and seem more like a punishment for growing up. Their behaviour toward the changes, which could lead to angry or emotional protests or regressive behaviours such as, bed wetting or clinginess, is not intended to upset us for moving them into their own room. This is merely a normal reaction to change and to feeling afraid, anxious, or unsettled.
Regressive behaviours are their way of showing they still need us, or simply a coping mechanism to return to that time when they felt protected. In those moments, they need reassurance from us that everything will be okay. We must be understanding. Calming any fears they have in a calm and confident manner whilst still communicating to them it’s not a bad change in circumstances, it’s just different!
As we know, our children want to be with us all the time, flattering as this may be, we need our U Time, and they need their sleep. We have to find ways of encouraging them to want to go to bed and make bedtime a comfortable, relaxing experience they’ll look forward to.
There’s no Magical Cure, Sleeping Potions, or Sand Man in the world who is able to make our children sleep if they don’t want to. Nobody can really make anybody sleep if they are not willing to do so, not even a Hypnotherapist like me. But there are ways in which we can help our children to relax and feel comfortable to sleep alone, soundly throughout the night.
Physical and mental capacity is impaired with too much activity and stimulation. This can be nearly as bad as none at all, making learning to relax a useful skill.
A day at School or Nursery sandwiched between child-minders, breakfast, or After School Clubs and family and friends is exhausting and demanding for our young children. This is just what we expect our children to do as part of their normal day.
Providing an adequate amount of activity for their age and allowing them plenty of time to do things, unrushed, can help them with all the comings and goings of everyday life.
For babies, any activity or visits should be short and sweet.
It’s easy to overestimate what they need or what they are capable of tolerating. Routines such as nappy changing, bathing, or a trip to the shops are physically and mentally stimulating and exciting to them.
We might not feel we’ve exerted ourselves by taking a trip to the shops, followed by a visit to Auntie Sue’s, but our baby will have.
Everything is new to them, and as they are constantly learning and encountering different experiences, we must allow plenty of periods for them to rest and process them.
Tempting as it is to play with them for hours on end with noisy, colourful toys, or wake them for a cuddle, passing them around cooing friends and family, this can all be too much for them to tolerate.
They soon become tired and irritable for what seems like no apparent reason. Then after such a busy day, we find ourselves puzzled as to why they cannot sleep, wondering why they are fighting it.
Why don’t they just fall straight to sleep when we’ve tried our best all day to wear them out?
Well, the answer is, they simply cannot relax when they are irritable and past the point of sleep.
As they have no control over what happens to them, and no way to communicate their feelings, they become frustrated and upset.
And being picked up while fast asleep and moved can be a rude awakening that none of us would welcome.
Babies don’t understand the journey has come to an end, and it’s time to get out of the car, into the hustle and bustle of a busy supermarket. They were happy fast asleep. So, we have to be as sensitive, understanding, and accommodating to their needs as possible by offering uninterrupted, regular rest periods in order to prevent them becoming overtired and anxious.
It’s easy to spot if our children are overtired by how they behave.
Their emotions will be exaggerated, seeming unnecessary or inappropriate, displaying either frustration, sadness, anger, or all of those.
These emotions determine their behaviour, dictating how they act. Those feelings are there for a reason, they can help children regulate themselves if they understand and learn how to manage them.
When we recognise they’re feeling emotionally tired, we can reassure them they are simply tired and will feel better after some rest. Most children become emotionally stable and behave appropriately with adequate rest.
After a good night’s sleep or a short nap, they wake feeling refreshed and happy once again.
If not, then getting to the real problem and resolving the issues will be essential before expecting them to sleep well.
We need to make sure they are not anxious or stressed but are relaxed before bedtime.
Problems from the day can be left simmering in the back of their mind at bedtime, or fears over future events can bother them.
If they have things to face the next day which they are not looking forward to, such as a test at school or even a visit to the dentist, these worries can cause anxiety, manifesting as nighttime wakings.
We can help eliminate concerns they have by using Us Time to let them discuss issues openly with us each day and by offering them the chance to relax daily. Offloading some of their worries and relaxing more will provide time to think, reflect, and rationalise their thoughts and feelings (we will look at ways to do this in later blog posts when we look at Esteem and The Bother Box).Make sure you join our Newsletter so you don’t miss it!
Sleep is vital in restoring children’s mental and physical development and growth. As well as helping them to process the day’s events, and to make sense of all they’ve learnt and experienced. Without adequate sleep, their mental and emotional capabilities are affected including their concentration and physical coordination. So, when tired, they are more accident prone and clumsy, their memory and learning abilities are affected, making it difficult to learn, remember, or concentrate, and their behaviour, moods, and emotions are all disrupted.
They can even experience disturbances that hinder the production of appetite controlling hormones which could be a contributing factor in possible weight gain.
Children have difficulty sleeping for all sorts of reasons, and we’ll look at these over the next few blogs, so Stay Present until then, Em x
Why do you throw rocks before you, the path ahead is smooth?’ A wise Sage once said, he must have been describing parenthood?
Old Habits Die Hard
Habits can work for or against us.
When it comes to routines in our children’s lives such as brushing their teeth, going to school and sleeping and eating at a set time, these are all good for our children.
They are in essence healthy habits.
Even if they fight it, all children need and like the predictability that routines offer. But routines are also good for us parents too.
Routine’s help to eliminate uncertainty, stress and unnecessary arguing with our children, while giving us the time for ourselves that we all need. When we all follow the same routine harmony follows us. It gives the day order, and time serves a purpose in our lives. We become more organised and productive and are able to plan ahead and pre-empt things ahead of time.
That’s why routines are such effective and valuable parenting tools.
They make it easy for us parents to deduce a lot from our children’s behaviour, when followed consistently, on a daily basis.
For example, if our children have had enough sleep, we can rule out them being tired when they misbehave or get upset. But if we know that they have not had enough sleep, then we will be able to see where the problem lies.
Routines also help us to proactively pre-empt beforehand, our children’s likely behaviour. Helping us to better plan and accommodate for those times when there have been interferences in their routines. For example, if we know they have not had their nap, we can avoid taking them to soft play until after they have had a nap.
Having this knowledge helps us limit a lot of unnecessary upset, for not only our children but for ourselves too. Over time with a consistent approach to routines, our children becoming over tired, hungry, bored or over stimulated, will be almost eliminated, as routine’s will meet those needs in advance, before it’s too late.
Also, by offering our children food before they are hungry or by putting them down for a nap before they desperately need one, we help them to feel understood, cared for and content. This prevents tears and tantrums for both ourselves as well as our children, because trying to soothe an over tired baby to sleep, is a very stressful time for all in earshot, so it’s never a good idea to wait until it’s too late.
Even when we have solid, well established routines in place, our children will still push those boundaries along with our patience. But parenting needn’t feel like a constant battle or struggle.
What if there was an easier way to control our
children’s behavior, without being a controlling parent?
Easy does it!
When children are proving hard to control, the easy
path often seems …. well …. too easy!
So, we dismiss it as an option and carry on the hard
way out of habit.
This is when habits can work
against us and become bad.
But when we find our children’s behaviour bad, it’s usually because we are trying too hard.
End the Battle & Win the War
One long summer school holiday (you know, the ones
that seem to go on for ever, or you soon will!) A Mum came to see me in
despair, saying she had lost control of her children and didn’t know how to get
She felt as though she
was, (in her own words);
‘Fighting against them in
a constant battle about everything, and feeling defeated all the time.’
My advice which surprised her, was to go along with
her children whenever she felt totally powerless, and to see what happened?
I wasn’t suggesting she leave her children to their own devices, and let them walk all over her, encouraging them to take advantage of her apathy. I just wanted her to accept and allow their demands temporarily, while she regained her confident, composure and sense of authority and self.
This was to show her children she was not accepting their behaviour powerlessly. Instead, she was showing them that she didn’t mind either way how they behaved.
This reversed psychological approach, not only
confused her children somewhat, but as intended, it equipped her to deal with
There was no more struggle.
Instead of feeling
powerless and beaten, she was able to manage normally challenging situations,
By her thinking that she
was choosing how to feel, she felt empowered, rather than feeling powerless.
The truth is, there’s always a choice and parents are never powerless. We
have all the power, all the time.
I assured her that her children would soon get fed up of misbehaving, once they realised, she did not care and they weren’t getting any attention for their behaviour.
PEACE AT LAST
What she soon noticed was,
her children had stopped wanting or asking for the things that previously she
was not allowing them. By her not disallowing her children the things they
wanted, the battle was over.
They hadn’t won the war though, because really, they didn’t want those things they were fighting for in the first place. All they were interested in was the battle. So, she ended up peacefully winning the war.
If its not us battling our children in a war of wills, then its our children fighting with one another. Nothing drives parents more crazier, than refereeing their own children. You love them all equally but when they are squabbling with one another, its hard to be calm, collected and fair.
The temptation is to blame one child, usually the elder as they should know better or tell them all off, even if one child is innocent. The secret to this common parenting dilemma is, learning to go with the flow more (as in the previous example, where the Mum let go of control) as we practice the Art of Intervention.
The Art of Intervention
We are not ignoring their petty bickering; we are merely being a silent observer, intervening only when absolutely necessary.
Knowing when to intervene in our
children’s behaviour and when not to, is a fine art to master. It takes a lot
of thought, patience and practice.
We have to stop ourselves from flying
off the handle at every incident and decide if it’s really such a big issue?
Does their behaviour warrant a
reaction from us that is likely to upset not only our children, but ourselves
If it’s not that important then, we
have to learn how to let it go, nine times out of ten, none of its really that
serious anyway. This is not an excuse to
get out of correcting our children’s unacceptable behaviour though, they have
to abide by the rules, in order to keep themselves safe and healthy.
It’s knowing the difference between those times when we need to correct them, and knowing when they have to learn how to correct themselves. For example, when they are squabbling with friends or siblings, it’s not always necessary or helpful for us to jump right in and intervene.
It’s important to step back and let them get on with it at times, and let them argue amongst themselves as they learn how to resolve their own issues. This is the only way they’ll learn how to get on with other people and how to resolve conflicts, in a safe, nurturing environment.
When our children hurt the ones they
love, it teaches them when they have over stepped the mark. It offers them the
opportunity to apologise and make up, or forgive the other person too if they
feel they were justified. Silly little squabbles can be resolved between
children with -out adult interference, so if it’s not our battle, then we don’t
need to fight.