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New season, new routine

By Emma at helpbabysleep.co.uk

How do we support our child in times of changes and the importance of not rushing bed time routines. This month our expert blogger is Emma the local sleep consultant at helpbabysleep.co.uk


At the beginning of January my youngest started nursery for the first time. Although it was super exciting, it was also nerve wracking for both her and us! The last few weeks have once again highlighted the importance of CONNECTION during times of transition. Change at any age, be it at 4 months or 3 years is synonymous with fear and anxiety. It often leads to bedtime resistance, increased night waking and early morning risings. Inevitably, if your child is unable to express their fears and tensions throughout the day they will need to during the night. ⠀⠀ “Connection” is the cornerstone of success and establishing trust and security with your child is the most powerful antidote for fear – which is essentially at the core of almost every sleep and behavioural difficulty. The importance of connection Your child thrives on having a close relationship with you. It is this relationship that allows them to successfully handle stress, upset and conflict in their everyday lives. Your child will actively seek out connection from you during the day and then often again overnight so they can feel safe and secure. When your child feels disconnected, normally due to a shift in parental energy and attention, your child’s sense of safety and connection is compromised. As a result, the thinking part of their brain (the pre-frontal cortex), shuts down and the limbic system (the emotional part of their brain) is unable to effectively coordinate all parts of the brain to maintain emotional equilibrium. Often during period of disconnection your child may have spontaneous emotional release such as tears and tantrums/bedtime resistance and night wakings as this is their way of setting up a situation that will elicit an emotional release so that they can heal and recover.⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀ How can you support your child through a period of change? Listen to tears and tantrums, let their feelings be heard. Be present with your children and let them cry to enable healing of past or present hurts. If you are always quick to stop your child’s tears, you may prevent your child from releasing their feelings and often these will be stored away in an emotional back pack– culminating in irrational behaviour such as tantrums, excessive crying and screaming at times when your child may be feeling distressed. If you don’t support your child to release these tensions and feelings during the day they often surface overnight when a child is in an altered state of consciousness and is unable to exert the physical energy to keep those feelings repressed. They can then manifest themselves in the form of bedtime resistance, nightmares, night terrors, habitual catnapping and frequent night waking. ⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀ Put away any distractions and spend 15-20 minutes a day connecting with your child – this should be time completely for you and them and nothing else. If your child is old enough you might like to make a visual schedule that they can look at and you can have one for Mum and one for Dad. You can also brain storm for ideas about what you are going to do during the special time and also be clear where it is going to happen and how long it is going to last.⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀ ⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀ In our family we love incorporating a period of roughhousing in the lead up to bedtime. Contrary to what many traditional parenting books say, we often do this after bath to help release any excess feelings of tension and stress that are apparent before we move into the calmer steps of our bedtime routine. ⠀ Role playing is also an effective way to create laugher and release fears. In the days before my son started school, we spent time dressing his teddies and he would pretend to be their teacher and then I swapped roles with him and he pretended to be a student alongside his teddies. This was really great as it helped to normalise the emotional struggle that he was facing in the run up to starting school and also helped him to feel more secure in face of uncertainty.⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀ ⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀ Don’t rush your bedtime routine. Often children will release any fears/tensions in the moments just before sleep and it is important you give them the space to do so. ⠀⠀ Remember you don’t need to do everything at once, but just being aware of the importance of connection, especially during times of transition and change will make a huge difference to the way you interact and relate to your child making life much easier for you all. If you would like to know more or would like some advice and support for your baby's or toddler’s sleep. Please send me an email on Emma@helpbabysleep.co.uk or visit my website www.helpbabysleep.co.uk