How to Get Kids to Sleep
Some kids sleep just fine…as long as you’re glued to their side. “The dark is the vast unknown,” says Elizabeth Pantley, the author of The No Cry Sleep Solution ($17, amazon.com). “It’s a normal part of childhood to want the people you love with you, to feel safe and secure.” Kids do grow out of this—though maybe not as quickly as you would like. “I’ve seen 10-year-olds who still want Mom or Dad to hang out until they’re asleep,” says Jean Kunhardt, a coauthor of A Mother’s Circle ($18, bn.com) and a cofounder of Soho Parenting, a parents’ counseling service in New York City. Not only is the situation exhausting for you but it can also zap your kid’s self-esteem. “Your child might feel bad if she knows how frustrated you are or that other kids sleep on their own,” says Kunhardt. To get her ready to go solo, make sure she’s truly tuckered out (avoiding TV or boisterous activity after dinner helps), and initiate bedtime about 30 minutes earlier than usual. It’s soothing for her if you follow a predictable pattern: Dim the lights, turn on mellow tunes, make her as snug as a bug. Then start the declinging process. “Once your child is tucked in, say, ‘I’ll be right back,’ to introduce the idea of separating as gently as possible,” says Pantley. Be sure to follow through, but each night make your vanishing act slightly longer. If she’s afraid to be alone, even with a night-light, ease any bogeyman anxieties by spritzing dark corners with “monster repellent.” (Don’t let on that the secret formula is water in a spray bottle.) After a week or so, says Pantley, if all goes well, you’ll come back to find that your child has drifted off on her own. However, if she crawls into bed with you at midnight, stay strong, no matter how tempted you are to cuddle. Give her a hug and a kiss, then escort her to her room to repeat the ritual.