Teaching children to fall asleep independently
Learning to fall asleep on their own can be challenging for certain children. Some fall asleep independently at a very young age whereas others will require a little help from their parents and early childhood educator to develop this healthy habit.
One thing is certain, and I am sure we can all agree on this, rocking a young child to sleep represents one of life's simple pleasures, a comforting gesture, a bonding moment. I am not sure if it's the children or the adults who reap the most benefits, but I do know that everyone greatly appreciates this relaxing time.
As children grow, the need to fall asleep in their parent's or early childhood educator's arms may continue to be present. However, as soon as they are deposited in their bed, these children often wake up, wanting to be held. It's a fact: children who fall asleep in an adult's arms will want to be in his/her arms when they wake up too. What began as a comforting habit can, over time, become much less enjoyable. For this reason, it is important that you teach children to fall asleep on their own. There is no specific age for this. However, the younger they are, the easier it will be. As I often say, you must be comfortable with this method and the age at which you choose to instill this habit. Some are comfortable with letting children fall asleep on their own from birth, others prefer to begin a little later. No matter what you decide, make sure you are comfortable with your decision.
There are several tips and tricks that can help children fall asleep on their own. Here are a few:
- Maintain a regular routine. Establishing a routine and sticking to it will help children feel safe. Respecting the same sequence of events day after day and establishing a regular sleep schedule backed up with illustrations helps children know what to expect.
- Watch for signs of fatigue. Red eyes, yawns, a child rubbing his eyes or asking for his blanket are all signs that must be considered. When you observe these signs, you must encourage children to rest. Trying to get children to sleep too long before or after these signs are present will make it more difficult for them to fall asleep.
- Give children time. Hold them, rock them for 2 or 3 minutes, or rub their back once they are in their bed.
- Stay close to children as they develop the ability to fall asleep on their own. Some may need a hug, want you to tuck them in, or require your presence to help them fall asleep. Once children have developed the habit of falling asleep on their own, you will slowly be able to distance yourself.
- If a child gets up, put him back to bed. Avoid explanations and arguments. Simply put him back to bed and repeat this intervention every time.
- Collaborate with parents and work as a team. Establish an action plan together. Agreeing on how you will intervene will increase your chances of success.
- If children are old enough, use positive reinforcements. Reward them with stickers or use a reward system to encourage them to successfully fall asleep on their own. Keep in mind that the system must be adapted to each child and be age-appropriate.
May naptime be restful for all!
Maude Dubé, Specialized educator