During lockdown we’ve all suffered from sleepless nights, whether that’s through anxiety, not enough exercise, unhealthy eating choices or disrupted routines. Added to that we’ve had clingier children who have picked up on our fears and anxieties too. In fact, lockdown has caused our children to become more dependent on us as parents and more needy than ever, leaving us at our children’s beck and call 24 -7.
Some children born into lockdown know no other way, others have just become accustomed to having us around doing everything for them.
But we need our U Time and rest as much as they do.
Friday the 19th of March is World Sleep Day, so here’s some tips to help restore a good night’s sleep for our little ones, because if they are sleeping, we can too!
CREATE THE RIGHT ENVIRONMENT
Children need to feel comfortable, safe, and relaxed in their bed. We can make bedtimes more inviting and cosier for our children by addressing the basics and reviewing them from time to time, as our children grow.
That busy, blue, rocket wallpaper may have seemed a good idea when you found out you were having a boy, but how practical is it today now your toddler wont sleep?
We don’t want our children to be stimulated at bedtime, so instead of choosing the traditional bright colours for you child’s bedroom, opt for more subtle, green tones. Green is closer to nature and offers a relaxing, tranquil environment, which is conducive for sleep and much more soothing.
Have you noticed recently that your child has started to wake up earlier in the morning?
This could be due to the change in seasons. We may not have needed black out curtains or blinds during the dark winter months but now spring is on its way, bringing lighter mornings and evenings, this can prevent them dropping straight off or arouse them too early. Any signs of light will wake them easily and affect their body clock, so it’s a good idea investing in blackout blinds or curtains, while avoiding night lights or leaving landing lights on to comfort them.
As the seasons change so do the temperatures and what was once a nice, warm duvet in the winter, is now a hot, heavy burden in the summer, so changing duvet togs and the number of blankets or textures can help. Likewise adding extra blankets in the winter will ensure they are never too cold. Remember infants can’t regulate their own temperature so this is important for us to monitor. We can also regulate temperature by opening a window, using a fan or putting the heating on or off.
Lack of sleep can be detrimental to overall health and wellbeing, no one should be deprived of the basic necessity to sleep. Lack of sleep is also accumulative, so our children have to catch up on sleep whenever they can.
Even if this means a nap in the day to make up for lost sleep at night.
Parents sometimes avoid their children taking daytime naps, fearing they won’t sleep as long at night, but the reverse is actually true. Sleep deprived children have the worst sleeping habits, and those who nap in the day, actually sleep better at night. Children who need, but do not take a nap in the day, become overtired. 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, so offering quiet time to rest, relax, and daydream throughout the day, is just as important as napping or sleeping at night.
MAKE IT INVITING
When my children were young, bedtime was our favourite Us Time together. We’d chat about the day, have a story and a cuddle and share with one another 3 things we were grateful for that day. By making bedtime an inviting, relaxing time, children will look forward to it.
WARNINGS AND REMINDERS
Children see bedtime as a fun spoiler, especially if absorbed in play or watching their favourite TV programme. But we can make it easier for them to accept by offering plenty of warnings and reminders. We need to gradually prepare them, letting them know fifteen minutes beforehand, with 5-minute reminders in between, e.g., if their bedtime is at 7pm then start at 6.45pm with- ‘Time to put your toys away.’ 6.50pm, ‘Let’s brush our teeth.’ and 6.55pm, ‘Let’s hop into bed for a story.’ This gives them the chance to mentally and physically prepare themselves.
ROUTINE IS KEY
Routines have gone out the window for many of us. Not having to get up for school has caused havoc and late nights and lay ins have become the norm. children’s sleeping habits have changed without the usual structure to their day so this will have impacted everything else, such as our children’s behaviour. To remedy this, it’s time to start or get our children back into a routine.
I recommend the U URSELF Routine to help restore harmony at home, as it covers;
U Time, Us Time, Recreation and Exercise, Sleep, Esteem, Love and Food, all of which impact a child’s sleeping habits.
You can read more about the U URSELF Routine on our web page by clicking the button below
Having a regular time to go to bed is vital. Setting a regular bedtime and sticking to it helps develop certain sleep wave patterns. These don’t change at the weekend; their body clock will send them to sleep and wake them up the same time on a Saturday, as it would on a Monday. So, bedtime needs to be consistent even at weekends.
We won’t be able to make them sleep while in bed, but our job is done when we make sure they are tucked up at a set time. There’s no need to argue with them to sleep, we are just setting a routine. They will fall asleep of their own accord when their bed becomes their cue to, and there’s nothing else stimulating on offer.
Keeping noise down helps a light or sensitive sleeper too, if they can hear you laughing at the TV downstairs then that’s where they’ll naturally want to be.
One child may be younger, making their bedtime different from their older siblings, and this is where difficulties can lie. Obviously, the younger child won’t want to be going to bed alone and will try to prevent this. There’s nothing we can do to make them sleep; however, we must still stick to their bedtime routine and make sure they go to their room at the appropriate time, ensuring all members of the family are respectful of their need for quiet.
If their physical environment is conducive to a good night’s sleep, and hunger or overtiredness can be ruled out, yet they’re still not sleeping through the night, the usual culprits are illness, teething, and general pain or enuresis.
Regressive behaviours like bedwetting don’t keep children awake, sleeplessness is usually a symptom of laying in wet pyjamas or bedding. We can help minimise the frustration to ourselves by changing sheets immediately, with minimum fuss. We can do this by always making their bed up twice, with two layers of waterproof sheets and normal sheets, just in case. This preparation means if they have an accident during the night, this limits the time and disruption of having to completely remake the bed. Simply throw off the top layer of wet sheets and waterproof, then underneath there will be more dry sheets and another waterproof sheet.
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 ok. We must be understanding, reassuring any fears they have in a calm and confident manner, whilst still communicating to them that, what we are asking them to do i.e., go to sleep, is not bad but good for them!
We’ve all dreamed of lazy days in our pjs, watching daytime TV, with no work or responsibilities but now we’ve got it, we can see the dream was far better than reality. We all need structure to our days and a reason to get out of bed and get dressed each day. When everyday becomes a prolonged holiday it just gets boring, yes we had fun eating and drinking what we pleased, sleeping when we felt like and not having to exercise as much, but when there’s no U time and Us time becomes more of a chore we can’t escape, everyone’s esteem suffers. Now more than ever, you and your children need routine.
Routine – The Habit of all Happy, Healthy and Successful Parents and Children.
Having worked with so many different children of all ages from all walks of life, I believe there’s no such thing as a naughty child, a fussy eater, or a child who cannot sleep.
There are only children who lack routine, and therefore, develop their own habits in the absence of those routines.
Our children’s routines are simply their everyday activities, such as going to bed or eating dinner at a certain time. Most children already follow some sort of routine, whether it’s one that has been structured for them to follow, such as being put to bed at seven pm every evening, or one they have naturally adopted where they nap when they are tired around three pm each day. Both become habits ensuring adequate sleep.
Whether formed naturally or created by us for our children to follow, habits in life can work for or against us. For example, only eating junk food is an unhealthy habit, brushing our teeth is a healthy habit.
We can do them both every day without even thinking about it unless we choose consciously not to do them. This is hard work, anyone who’s ever tried to go on a diet will tell you—the craving takes over. Breaking old habits can be a real struggle. Particularly if those habits provide us with pleasure or comfort, which most do. As human beings, we are all creatures of habit. We like the predictability and safety that our habits provide, like an old friend, we can rely on them to be there for us when we need them. As it’s so hard to break old habits and resist temptation, it’s best not to let our children develop unhealthy habits in the first place.
The problem then is not the habits themselves, it’s whether they are healthy and helpful for our children or not.
If our children’s habits are sporadic or dictated by the whims of our children’s moods and emotions, they are not consistent routines. Routines should become automatic habits that should not depend on outside circumstances or feelings. What’s important is understanding our children’s habits and being able to influence or change them in order to steer them down the healthier, automatic highway.
To do this, it’s essential we offer them alternative ‘healthy habits’ and the best way to do this is to provide them with a healthy, consistent routine.
Children especially like the predictability and stability that routines bring in an otherwise chaotic world. Lack of routine causes confusion, and that results in misbehaviour.
When our children don’t know what is expected of them, when it’s expected, and why we expect them to do something, they get confused, angry, and upset.
We might insist they go to bed at seven o’clock, but if that’s not what they are used to doing, and they don’t know why they must go to bed at that time all of a sudden, then they’ll kick up a fuss. This emotional outburst will be even more severe if they are tired.
It’s best to have a routine in place that they are used to, giving them a set of instructions that they can learn to follow until eventually, those instructions become an automatic habit.
Children just don’t understand the reason why they are being overly emotional is because they are tired, hungry, or frustrated over something out of their control. Our role as parents is to identify their misbehaviour as a sign that they want us to take charge, direct them, or reassure them in some way, not to punish them for their behaviour.
This is when routines are useful because being young and uncertain on how to react or behave is scary enough without children having to worry about when they are going to eat their next meal or what time they need go to bed. A regular routine takes care of all of that for them, and for us as parents too.
In the absence of routine, children can become labelled as naughty when they’re actually hungry, tired, bored, restless, or attention seeking. We naturally assume that attention seeking behaviour is bad, but if our children are in constant need of our attention, then we need to identify this as the problem and find out why.
And again, routine helps us to do this because if we can rule out our children’s unwanted behaviour as not being a result of hunger or tiredness, we now know there’s another issue that needs our attention.
It’s easy to overlook issues without a routine in place as we won’t have a clue what is wrong with our child, making it easier to blame their behaviour as being the problem rather than finding out what problem is causing the behaviour.
That’s because their behaviour is tangible, we can see, hear, or feel it even. So, if it’s unwanted behaviour, the behaviour is the only problem we see, and we tend to react to their behaviour by trying to control or stop it with some form of punishment or threat.
Children may think they know what they want, but they are not mature or experienced enough to decide what is good or bad for them.
That’s when they depend on us for guidance, not punishment.
No doubt they’ll want to play all night long, but only because they don’t understand the importance of rest in their lives and the impact lack of quality sleep has on them. When they fight their need to sleep, inevitably, they become over tired, and as a result, they become out of control and emotional with no understanding of why.
Lack of routine in their lives can make it easy for them to do their own thing based on how they are feeling at any particular time. But their feelings aren’t reliable—routines are. We have to take a proactive approach to parenting and provide for their needs before they need them. Such as ensuring they go to bed at a consistent time every evening. This way, we limit and eventually prevent unwanted behaviour caused by tiredness.
If our children get enough time with us, adequate sleep, nutritious food, exercise, and plenty of recreation and love, then, those habits will obviously serve them better. Whereas a haphazard approach, left to their own devices, unsupervised, in an environment where they have complete control of what they do, staying up late, eating junk food in front of a screen is a recipe for disaster.
Now I’m not suggesting any of us allow that to happen intentionally, but letting our children stay up later than they should, occupied by a screen, can become a sneaky habit. Sometimes, for the sake of our sanity, we need a break, and the modern age babysitter, aka, the moving screen, is quick and convenient. It also delays the tantrum we know will erupt before bed, and in some cases, provides a lullaby for children to eventually drop off to so we don’t have to face that dreaded situation.
But this catch 22 is a short-term solution to a longer-term problem.
Even if they fight it, all children need and like the predictability that routines offer, but it’s also good for us parents. It’s far easier and less stressful than fighting and arguing with our children, and it gives 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 able to plan ahead and pre-empt things ahead of time.
If we are trying to get some peace and quiet to unwind and relax, then we need to put our children to bed. That way, they can grow and recharge, while we enjoy our evening relaxing and recuperating. For that to work, we must establish a bedtime routine, or else we are making tomorrow an even harder day than today.
As parents, we now know that we want routine, and our children need it, so let’s give everyone what they want and need. But what routines exactly do our children need?
No matter how unique our children are, all children need exactly the same things to be happy, healthy, and successful, that is;
Parents and carers who love them unconditionally and spend time with them, making them feel valued.
Somewhere safe to call home.
A routine which includes, recreational play time, sleep, exercise, love, and food.
It’s about the small, consistent things that we do for our children that will make all the difference to their health, happiness, and success long term.
It’s not about grand gestures, gadgets or gifts, fancy clothes, or holidays to exotic Islands riding camels across the dessert. Although, these positive experiences and material possessions can and do make a difference to their wellbeing too. But ultimately, being a loving parent who offers a stable routine is the best gift that we can give our children today.
And it’s the gift that keeps on giving because the sense of love, security, belonging, and comfort provided by a routine while young will stay with them as adults, helping them to feel more confident as people and happier in themselves.
THE U URSELF ROUTINE
As parents, we are responsible for our children’s habits.
The U URSELF Routine is a routine that allows us take charge and to feel Confident and Proactive as parents, guiding us in what we should be doing and when, just as much as our children.
And that’s why U Time is part of the U URSELF Routine that I created.
It’s a routine I used with my own children as well as helping other parents and their children that I’ve worked with over the years. It’s tried and tested, and it works. That’s why it’s such an effective and valuable parenting tool, making it easy to deduce a lot from our children’s behaviour when followed consistently on a daily basis.
Although I have created and used the U URSELF Routine with great success with my own children and have taught it to parents and children I have worked with over the past sixteen years as a Registered Childminder, Parent Coach, and Therapist. Only you know what is best for you and your child and your family as a whole. Each and every family has their own way of doing things and their own setup. Therefore, it’s you yourself who will ideally decide the routines you want your child to follow. The U URSELF Routine is aptly called the U URSELF Routine because it’s you yourself who will implement this routine and, ultimately, it’s going to be you yourself who will make your child happy, healthy, and successful.
If you are interested in reading more about the U URSELF Routine in detail, you can download my book now which covers the routine in depth, The Confident Parent’s Guide to Raising a Happy, Healthy & Successful Child from Amazon or order a copy from Waterstones or Barnes & Noble
But I’ll offer a brief overview as follows.
It’s one routine as a whole that comprises of seven different yet co-dependant aspects. In order for you to remember them, below is a useful mnemonic to help you, using the words ‘You Yourself’ abbreviated and spelt U URSELF. These combined are what I refer to as the U URSELF routine.
Those seven, separate, yet co-dependant routines combine into one solid tried and tested routine. Offering an outline of what every child needs and why, to be happy, healthy, and successful.
Individual in their own right, each are co-dependent on one another because it’s pointless addressing our children’s behavioural issues if we aren’t addressing their sleep issues or other areas of their lives. As each aspect of our children’s lives impacts one another, there’s no point addressing your child’s sleeping habits if you don’t look at their exercise and recreational habits too. Like a missing piece of the puzzle, leaving out one area will fail to give us the whole picture. All the pieces or parts of the routine need to be collectively addressed at the same time.
We all do it, we focus on an area we feel is the problem and try treating that problem or try to tackle that area head-on, failing to find the solution we are after.
We need to encompass our children’s habits as a whole in all areas. Even those areas we are happy with that cause no issues.
They may be a good eater, but what are they eating and when?
I’m guessing chicken nuggets are most popular in these days of lockdown!
This can all have an impact on their quality of sleep and be an underlying cause of their sleep problems.
The U URSELF routine will prove to be a useful, informative, motivational guide.
Even though much of it is common sense, having a motive or understanding the benefits of each aspect will give you the motivation and knowledge to stick to the routine, particularly when times become challenging. We are all cooped up indoors together at this time through no fault of anyone’s but tensions are high and patience in short supply. If you are finding your childrens behaviour difficult right now you may also like to take a look at my other book The Powerful Proactive Parent’s Guide to Present Parenting, both books are available to download to Kindle now.
If consistently followed, The UURSELF Routine is a reliable blueprint to guide you, but not if it’s just on paper. You can read about it, and I can keep writing about it until we are blue in the face, but without taking action to implement it, it’s worthless common knowledge. You have to be proactive in encouraging and following it with your child.
That’s where most routines fail, our motivation wanes over time. When we lack motivation, we can never encourage our children to follow the routine, and without encouragement, routines are not carried out frequently enough to become habits.
Over time, with a consistent approach to the U URSELF routine, becoming over tired, starving hungry, bored or attention seeking will be eliminated most of the time as the routine endeavours to meet those needs in advance before it’s too late.
By offering our children food before they are hungry or by putting them down for a nap just before they desperately need one, we help them to feel understood, cared for, and content. This prevents tears and tantrums for both parent and child, 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.
The U URSELF Routine is designed to help children feel good. Feeling good about themselves is crucial to being happy, heathy, and successful. That’s why Esteem is part of the U URSELF Routine.
The U URSELF routine also allows us to take charge and to feel Confident and Proactive as parents, guiding us in what we should be doing and when, just as much as our children. That’s why it’s such an effective and valuable parenting tool. When followed consistently on a daily basis, the U URSELF Routine as already said helps us deduce a lot from our children’s behaviour., so we are able to see where the problem lies.
Routines also help us to proactively pre-empt beforehand our children’s behaviour so we can plan and accommodate for those times when there have been interferences in their routines.
You’ll soon find that life is so much easier when we all have a routine to follow each day!
Carve the path for your child to walk, or tread the hot coal’s that follow, it’s up to you.
I’d love to hear your lockdown parenting adventures. I would especially love to hear some positive stories, and the good outcomes that you have found from this strange period in our history, you can email me firstname.lastname@example.org
So, you survived another half term holiday, but secretly are jumping for joy that your little people are back to school or childcare right?
You’re not alone.
Spending Us time with our children is precious but often it can feel more of a challenge for most of us.
If your child’s behaviour can be difficult, spending Us Time together may not be something you relish doing.
You may or may not be surprised to know that many parents have admitted openly to me that, they actively look for distractions away from their children. And lots of parents feel a sense of relief when they drop their children to childcare or school and go to work.
This is not because they don’t love their children, quite the opposite, they really do love their children, they just don’t understand their behaviour or how to manage it, making time together more like hard work than fun, and they don’t want to upset their children or themselves any more than necessary.
If that sounds familiar, then you may be interested in reading my book The Powerful Proactive Parent’s Guide to Present Parenting because when we can understand our children’s behaviour better and they can understand us, Us Time becomes a more pleasurable experience.
Children need and want our attention, and they don’t mind how they get it.
That means if they don’t feel they’re getting enough of it naturally, they will force us to pay attention to them, usually by misbehaving.
When we have more than one child this spreading of our time and attention can be difficult, we’ll look at this in a minute when we address individual Us Time for each child, but first let’s uncover the art of intervention.
THE ART OF INTERVENTION
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 our children’s behaviour warrant a reaction from us that is likely to upset not only our children, but ourselves too?
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.
IF IT’S NOT YOUR BATTLE THEN DON’T
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 and 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 overstepped 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 without adult interference, so if it’s not our battle, then we don’t need to fight.
We have to find ways to proactively involve our children in the process of managing their emotions. By making our children part of the solution today, we equip them to understand and manage themselves in the future. This potentially removes unwanted behaviour in the future.
Our children can be part of the problem or solution. We are not going to eradicate tantrums and unwanted behaviour, but how we approach it and involve our children in resolving it, is what makes all the difference.
Let’s say toddler Tommy has hit baby Johnny on purpose because baby Johnny was holding Tommy’s favourite Teddy and wouldn’t let it go. Auto pilot Mummy may smack or shout at Tommy and say ‘You’re the big Brother, you should know better.’ But obviously, Tommy didn’t!
Now, Auto pilot Mummy has reinforced hitting or shouting to resolve conflict.
But Tommy still hasn’t been taught how to share. That was the lesson there that auto pilot Mummy completely missed. She could’ve taught and coached Tommy by explaining that Johnny was a baby, who, like Tommy, doesn’t understand the concept of sharing and that certain toys belong to certain people.
All Tommy knew and was interested in was it was his favourite Teddy not his little brothers, and he wanted it back!
Johnny didn’t want to give it back though, so Tommy would do anything in his power to reclaim his beloved possession. And he did, he hit out. Proactive Mummy would have first made a fuss of baby Johnny who was hurt, not a fuss of toddler Tommy.
Cue proactive Mummy’s chance to explain and teach Tommy, once baby Johnny had calmed down and was okay.
It’s frightening for a toddler to see how he can actually hurt someone he really loves, and at first glance, to auto pilot Mummy, Tommy’s reaction looks deliberate, as if he wanted to hurt his baby brother. But despite what morally he thought was right, it was his teddy after all, it wasn’t intentional, he hasn’t developed morals, this is something he’ll learn from his parents and being in these uncomfortable situations. The truth of the matter is, he simply couldn’t control his emotions.
Instead of ostracizing Tommy and sending him to the naughty step or giving him a label such as naughty or bad boy, proactive Mummy needs to involve him and show him that she loves him, but his behaviour was not appropriate.
It’s proactive Mummy’s moral duty to make it clear that Tommy must never put his hands on anyone and to empathize that she understands he was hurt that Johnny had his favourite teddy, and she knows why he reacted the way he did, but hurting someone else because he feels hurt doesn’t resolve things, it makes it worse. Giving him examples helps him to make connections with how his actions make others feel, for example, explaining to Tommy that what he had done was not acceptable and that baby Johnny now feels hurt like that time when_______, then filling in a blank with a time when Tommy was hurt and upset.
This invokes empathy. He may cry as he realises what he has done was wrong. He’s learnt a powerful emotional lesson here. This is proactive Mummy’s cue to offer a little reassurance, such as a kiss or a hug.
ALL EMOTIONS ARE OKAY
This way, she demonstrates that’s it’s okay to get angry and have these emotions, they are not bad, they are trying to teach us something, and that she accepts that he was angry and that happens sometimes, but there are other ways to release that anger. So next time he feels that way, he can come and talk about his feelings. This helps open up a channel of future communication.
On the other hand, he may still not see that what he has done was wrong, so, as proactive parents, we have to be on the lookout for any repeat behaviour again so we can reinforce that lesson until he gets it.
We also need to encourage him to make it up with his baby brother, maybe kiss baby Johnny better to show his affection and forgiveness, which is important. Having a family group hug makes Tommy feel forgiven and included again and Johnny feel better too, and as a parent, peace and love feels restored.
Coaching behaviour shows unconditional love, a naughty step shows our love comes with conditions.
Anything other than unconditional love will feel like hard work because it usually relies on our children meeting our expectations, which is always going to be difficult.
It’s great to spend family ‘Us Time’ together, but trying to please more than one child at the same time can be difficult. Each will have different interests from the other, and will likely try to compete for individual attention, but being blessed with more than one child can make finding time for each one challenging.
Although generously giving of our time can become a stretch, each child will benefit from the attention of one on one time, making them feel special and important.
That’s why it’s important to factor in ‘US Time’ for each individual child by asking each one to write a list of the things they would like to do during US Time.
One child may be a football fanatic but if your other child isn’t, then taking them to football matches isn’t going to be the time they will enjoy. Of course, there will be times when they will have to tag along, but this isn’t what we class as ‘Us Time’.
Family Us Time is still important, and finding things we all like to do is a lot easier when we have a list to look at and see where everyone’s preferences lie so we can plan to do those things together, alongside individual Us Time.
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
sure many of Us Parents have heard that dreadful saying ‘I’m bored!’ since the
children have been off school, over the past week or so?
The school summer holidays pose a real
challenge for most of us, as we compile packed itineraries, lists and mind maps
of where to go and what to do, to entertain our childrens endless wants and
As a child, I loved nothing more than our Sunday walk through the forest or hike up our local mountain. We did it every Sunday without fail but my brother and I never bored of it, in fact all week we look forward to it.
Granted we only had 3 TV channels back then when I was a child, where children’s programmes were only aired for an hour at lunchtime. And we didn’t have computers or phones then, so I never felt as though I was missing out on my screen time. Walking up a mountain or playing tag with the other children in our street was our entertainment.
Often, I hear ‘It’s boring we’ve been here
before.’ when I take children out somewhere. As though every trip should be somewhere new
and exciting. I fear, Children are just losing their ability to entertain
themselves and have fun naturally these days.
And childrens play places are cashing in at our expense. When I was a child a trip to the farm or zoo was a once a year treat, we were lucky to get a bag of sweets or a pencil with a rubber from the gift shop at the end of our visit. Now children expect expensive toys at the end of every day out. It’s not our childrens fault these venues strategically place the gift shop full of toys, at the end of an attraction where we must walk our children through to leave.
But the result is, as parents, we no longer feel a fun family day out is good enough, when our children are clutching onto a fifty-pound toy, demanding they want it!
We know that we can get the same toy half the price from the supermarket, but we also know, all our children will remember is how horrible we were for denying them that toy, not all the fun we had having a picnic next to the peacocks!
Its vital children have the chance to relax and unwind, this doesn’t mean sleeping. Stimulation overload is a very real problem facing our children, affecting their mental health. Encouraging them to listen to relaxing music, read a book or comic and take time to daydream is vital. Most children today see this as being bored but there’s a lot of benefits to boredom.
As parents we are so busy in our own lives, we feel guilty when we are not providing busyness for our children, but what we all need and crave is time out from this busyness. One Monday morning about twelve years ago, I remember asking a parent how her weekend had been, here’s how she replied.
‘Friday after school I took the children to football and gymnastics, then Saturday morning they had karate, and in the afternoon, I took them swimming at that new pool with all the big slides, but they got bored after half hour so we ended up in the park. But then they had worked up an appetite so we went for a burger, then onto the cinema. I think they are getting too old for animated films now though, as they soon got bored mid- way and all they did was fight with one another then all evening. Then You’ll never guess what?’
One Busy Mum!
I shook my head in disbelief thinking, what there’s more?
As she continued
‘Sunday, I found out they had a big homework project that took most of the day up, I’m just so tired, I can’t wait to get back to work today!’
One TIRED MUM!
Wow, Wow, Wow!
All that nonstop entertainment, time and expense and at the end of the day none of it made them happy.
What would I wonder?
Too much can be just as bad as not enough. This conversation took place many years ago but over the years I’ve found, children are becoming a part of ‘The What Next Generation?’ of dissatisfied children. An enjoyable picnic in the park is just never enough. Children seem to be asking their parents ‘what’s next?’ before they have even finished doing what they are currently doing.
Leaving most of us worn out, skint and frazzled by the end of the day!
There’s not much left to the imagination anymore, and the absence of a TV, mobile phone or computer, can make our children feel bored. Unfortunately, being constantly occupied with people or electronic things, prevents contemplation and creativity.
are so used to this type of stimulation they cannot play alone or even with
each other anymore, they just don’t know how to occupy themselves without these
props, so they say they are bored. I have an answer for that; ‘Only boring people get bored.’
more for children to do today, than any other time in history. There’s so much
choice, variety, toys, opportunities, and
experiences, it’s hard to believe that the word bored still exists in the
in the Depression and Wartime days, children really did have nothing to play
with, nowhere to go and little to do, yet they never seemed to get bored like
the children of today do. They had no other option, they had to amuse
themselves and they knew how to play and have fun naturally.
children learnt early on, never to utter
those words ‘I’m bored.’ As soon as they did, they knew I would find them a
list of things to occupy them, such as cleaning jobs or homework.
hearing what I had to offer to alleviate their boredom, they suddenly
remembered they had lots to be getting on with
and got on with it!
we help alleviate boredom, by allowing them to become bored. This means occasionally
removing toys and electronics. This is not a punishment, so to prove that to
them, we have to join them in this practice too.
is probably something we will struggle with more than our children; I mean can
you actually imagine a day without your phone, computer or TV?
fall so behind on the soaps, social media, and
Boredom would eventually disappear, however, and our children would come to realise all there is naturally around them. They may struggle at first to find things to do, but given the alternative, such as cleaning their bedroom, they would soon find something to do which is more fun.
What could you be doing that’s more fun instead?
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