Collateral damage of the COVID-19 pandemic: Some children’s sleep is severely disrupted. Many parents report that their children, who used to sleep well, are waking up at night, having nightmares, or refusing to go to bed.
While there are no statistics on this subject, the French Society for Sleep Research and Medicine (SFRMS) warns, “Confinement at home can cause or increase sleep disorders in your children. It is not inevitable; you can help them!” This help is all the more welcome as restful sleep allows children to cope better with stress and anxiety, and helps strengthen the proper functioning of their immune system.
The institute gives some helpful advice: Avoid screens an hour or even two hours before bedtime, don’t discuss the negative events of the day in the evening, set regular bedtimes, and reinforce evening routines.
Make a “clock of routines”
Maybe your evening ritual is already well established: a bedtime story, prayers, a hug, and to bed! Nevertheless, the current situation requires us, in some cases, to reassure our children even more or to introduce a new ritual to overcome a possible feeling of anxiety.
Julie Renauld Millet, a therapist, suggests a very simple technique to ritualize a child’s bedtime: a “clock of routines”. The goal is to create reference points for the children, so they can figure out what to expect when.
Draw a clock that you divide (like a cake) in equal parts, marking the different steps leading up to bedtime: tidying up, putting on pajamas, going to the bathroom, brushing teeth, washing hands, night prayers, bedtime story, cuddling … Set a start time and an end time. While you may define the steps, you can leave it up to your kids, if possible, to choose the order of these routines.
Then, hang the clock in the hallway in front of their room.
“Seeing the different steps will help your children to get started and will help you to make them independent. It’s much more constructive for your children to hear, “What do you have to do before the bedtime story?” than to hear, “Go brush your teeth!” says Millet.
This is a formal way of ritualizing your children’s bedtime routine, in which they take an active part, so it’s harder for them to stray from it. It’s a useful tool for defining the ritual with foresight: “The bedtime ritual should be prepared outside of bedtime,” says Julie Renauld Millet, and it should be done with clear rules: the number of stories, the exact time for getting in bed …
Hopefully creating a “clock of routines” will calm the bedtime chaos and help your children go to sleep more easily. Happy dreaming!
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