The Sleep Lady on Family Sleep Meetings
Older children can still be taught to sleep well, so don't freak if your 2, 3 or even 5 year old still has sleep issues. I'm not going to lie to you, it takes time to change deeply ingrained habits. The good news is older children can understand that the family needs to make changes in a way that a baby can't. The trick to getting your older kids to sleep is to help them buy into the new sleep goals and to make them feel justifiably proud when they achieve them. This requires parental consistency and good communication. To get your older child on board with sleep coaching, convene a "family meeting" to talk about the sleep changes you want to make.
Here are some tips to holding a successful family meeting:
- Choose a relaxed time, when your kid is happy, receptive and reasonably well-rested. Sunday morning after pancakes, for instance, is a lot better than 5pm when she's cranky after skipping a nap and you just realized that you forgot to defrost the chicken for dinner.
- Explain the changes you want to make very clearly so your kid knows exactly what to expect. Warn her about an earlier or more structured bedtime or a new bedtime routine. "Daddy is not going to lie down with you anymore, but Daddy will stay near you until you fall asleep." Or "If you come to our bed at night, we are going to tell you we love you and give you a big hug and take you back into your bed where you can snuggle with your teddy bear." Adapt the script to the appropriate sleep challenge your kid faces, but don't feel you have to give a ton of detail.
- Encourage your kid to brainstorm about how she can participate, maybe by deciding what toy or blanket she can take to bed or what extra game she'll get to play in the morning if she uses "good sleep manners" at night. You want her to have a stake in her achievements and who knows, she may have some good ideas that you hadn't thought of!
- Encourage your older kid to help you make a Sleep Manners Sticker Chart to chart her success. You can do this during or after the meeting.
- Reassure your kid that you will stay with her and help her as she learns to make changes.
- Tell her that you know she can do it! (And when she does, pour on the praise!)
- Keep the discussion upbeat and positive!
Kim West, a.k.a. The Sleep Lady