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March 2016 / Bronx/​Riverdale Family / Brooklyn Family / Long Island Family / Manhattan Family / Queens Family / Staten Island Family / Columnists / Parents Helping Parents

In search of zzz’s

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Dear Sharon,

Do you have any tips to give a parent who is not getting any sleep? My 5-year-old son is waking up every night and coming into bed with us. We’ve tried many things to put an end to this, but nothing we’ve done seems to work. My husband is not handling it well either.

Dear parents,

I believe that it is vital for parents to get as much sleep as possible. Parenting is complicated enough without adding exhaustion to the mix. Here are some of the possible solutions moms and dads I have met with have instituted to address this common dilemma.

Some parents with big enough bedrooms put a mat or small mattress in their rooms. This gives their child a chance to be near them without crowding their limited space. They feel that when their child is 7 or 8 years old, the tendencies to look to parents for middle-of-the-night reassurance naturally change (in most cases this is true). They also believe that it can be a bit lonely for a child to sleep alone, and as long as Mom and Dad’s sleep is not drastically interrupted, they are OK with this temporary solution.

Others decide to go into their young one’s room when he can’t sleep, as it is sometimes manageable to head back to bed when a child has fallen asleep. Some moms and dads in this group get large beds or a separate place to rest in their child’s room. This solution can also mean that a child’s sleep patterns are less interrupted and can eventually lead to sleeping through the night. Of course, it also can end up with parents sleeping separately for part of the evening.

Naturally, there are parents who do neither and expect that their child stop the habit; letting him “cry it out.” As you suggested in your question, this can be easier said than done. The level of a 5-year-old’s upset as well as parents’ tolerance can vary greatly.

Whatever you choose, here are some important things to keep in mind before instituting any change.

When helping a child alter a disruptive behavior it can help to discuss the transition outside the moment. In this case, that means talking about sleep patterns during the day in a relaxed setting. Calmly explain why everyone needs sleep at night and make sure to take time to listen to your child’s point of view. Even if he is upset, listening to what everyone has to say can help him think things through.

Often, asking a child to offer his own ways to help make the change can help. When involved in the process, children can surprise you by cooperating more fully with a challenging change.

Setting up a rewards system can also help. I suggest offering the agreed upon “prize” on a daily basis at first, possibly presenting something even more special after a few days of success (a week can be a long time for a 5-year-old to wait). Stickers on a rewards chart can work for some families, but sometimes, a tangible present can provide more incentive. Ultimately, the real reward is a restful night for everyone.

Moms and dads also need to stay calm when explaining and instituting the change using as few words as possible to express their position. If a child forgets at night, it is especially important to be calm and brief; animated conversations take time and completely wake everyone — only making a bad situation worse.

Your question is common, but the answer is not always easy to find. If none of these ideas fit your family, it might be good to consult a professional who could hear more specifics and tailor solutions to match your particular needs.

My best wishes for a restful night’s sleep soon.

Sharon C. Peters is a mother and director of Parents Helping Parents, 669 President St., Brooklyn; (718) 638-9444. If you have a question about a challenge in your life (no issue is too big or small) e-mail it to Dear Sharon at SWeiss@cnglocal.com.
Posted 12:00 am, March 27, 2016
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