Key Night Time Phrase..What is the Point?

Key Night Time Phrase..What is the Point?

 

When we use a key phrase to identify that it is time to sleep, it can help with our little ones settling down and preparing for sleep. This settling down period can cause their bodies to start to produce melatonin.

Once a child is over 4.5 months of age they will begin the process of producing melatonin. Melatonin is the sleep hormone that allows our little ones to go to sleep and stay asleep for long periods of time.

I have had the opportunity to hear many different key phrases that people use for sleep. The following are some of the most common:

  • “Night Night”
  • “Sleepy Time”
  • “Good Night”
  • “Do do”
  • “Time for Sleep”

This key phrase comes in really handy in the middle of the night or early morning when your child requires a reminder that it is still time for sleep. When you use your key phrase it is often enough to help your little one attempt to go back to sleep. It basically does 2 things. It reminds them that it is still time for sleep and it allows them to hear your voice which can be very calming.

A key phrase may seem like a very simple tool; however, sometimes it is the small things that make a huge impact!!

 

As Always, Be the Parent You Want to Be!

PS. If you would like more help with help to improve your child’s sleep click here to book a free 15-minute consultation with me (Brenda McSween) or click on the Work with me Tab above to book a service.

Back to School During Covid Times

Back to School During Covid Times

 

Back to school season is upon us. Some children are already back to school and some are preparing for this adventure to begin! This can be a huge adjustment for our precious little ones. This year throws in a whole new level of adjustment.

Some children are going to school for the first time, some are returning after being away from in-person school for over a year, and others were in school but they have no idea what is going to happen at their school this year. The beginning of this school year may be very taxing for you and your child.

There are many things that you can do to help ease any anxiety.

Often our little ones do not have the words to express their worries, questions, fears, or excitement. This is why a safe place to let things out is important.

 

How can you help if they cannot tell you what they need?

First, it would be important to note that they are not trying to avoid talking.

I have spoken to many parents that get frustrated because their child has the words.  It appears that they are not using them.

Having the words is one thing, having the actual connections in the brain that allows the child to control their emotional responses is the issue. The part of the brain responsible for helping people to rationally talk and plan things out is not fully developed until the age of at least 25.

Yes, you read that correctly! At least the age of 25 is when the brain is fully developed. No, you do not need to wait until your child is 25 to help them learn skills to be able to cope with their big feelings. This is something that you can help with but it does take a great deal of patience.

 

What can you do to help??? 

The following are some things that you can do to help your child deal with the big emotions they may be experiencing in the evenings during the first few weeks back at school:

1. Be prepared: Be ready for emotional outbursts.

2. Label the feelings you see: “I can see that you are frustrated (or insert emotion here)…”. Understand that your child will say “NO I AM NOT……”

3. Do not take the outburst personally: Easier said than done but remind yourself that this is not about you at all. In fact, it is because your child feels connected to you that they are able to unload their feelings).

4. Bear Hugs: If your child is one that loves hugs, meet him with open arms! The pressure from the hug can be very calming.

5. Have a snack prepared: Hangry is a real thing! Anger is the secondary emotion that we can see when someone is hungry. (I pack snacks for all family members, not just the children)

6. Plan a low-key evening: This is not a great time to have a number of activities to do in the evenings that your child does not love doing (I do realize that this is hockey season for many families).

7. Put your phone or other electronics away: This is the time to give your child your full attention.

8. Have fun: Engage in some fun play or roughhousing. Laughter can be just as therapeutic as crying.

9. Child-Led Play: Let your child guide the play with you for about 10 to 15 minutes. This is when you do something that your child wants to do and you follow what they want. Child Directed play rocks because it can increase your child’s feeling of connection with you.

If all of the above is not working it could very well be that you need to create space for your child to unload their feelings.

 

What does unload their feelings mean??

This can look different for each child.

This often means that you allow your child the opportunity to cry, scream, yell, jump up and down, and do whatever your child does without hurting themselves or others.

(You may have to intervene if your child is hurting themselves or others)

By allowing a safe place for your child to unload their feelings you are giving them an opportunity to rid themselves of toxic stress. I refer to this as providing your child with a Safe Place to Land.

What do you do after the feelings have been unloaded?

You take your child’s lead. Your child may want to talk the stressors through or they want to move on.

If your child wants to process their feelings, it is important to empathize with them and then you can brainstorm with your child. You will brainstorm ways they can deal with their stress in a productive manner.

If your child wants to move on, allow that to happen. It is the same thing that happens when we as adults will vent our friends. We may drop a few f-bombs. After we are done talking we feel ready to move and do not have a need to discuss things at that time.

A little while after the meltdown or unloading happens, you can thank your child for letting you know how they were feeling and provide them with a few things they can try to reduce their stress.

Over the first few weeks of school be prepared to be the safe place for your child to land when needed and engage in lots of family time with low expectations.

Slowly over time, you will see a major reduction in your child’s emotional reactions. This will be your cue that your child is beginning to adjust to the new grade.

If the behavior does not change then feel free to reach out so we can chat (free 15-minute chat) about ways I can help.

Traveling with a Child

Traveling with a Child

Traveling with young children is an amazing opportunity to create so many memories with your children. The most memorable memories for you may be when your child is throwing himself/herself down on the floor in the airport or screaming bloody murder of the plane! Unfortunately, these things do happen!

Toddlers are going through some major developmental changes, which can contribute, to their increased tantrums. At this stage of development, our little ones have discovered that they can do things themselves. They have gone from having things done for them, to trying to figure out how to do things themselves. During this learning period, children will often throw a number of tantrums out of frustration, exhaustion, hunger, worrying about what is happening next, etc.

So how can you deal with these behaviors while you are traveling?

There are basically two types of strategies that you can use. These strategies can be broken down into 2 different types of reactions. The reactions are as follows:

1. Proactive Reactions:

A proactive reaction is when you consciously choose to do things that may help with your child’s feelings that can stop your child’s need to tantrum to express his/her feelings.

Some examples of Proactive Reactions are:

  1. Having snacks ready at any given moment. “Hangry” is a real thing.
  2. Giving your child reminders of what is happening next. Warnings of when they will have to transfer on to the plane. A warning before preparing for take-off and landing so the seat is in the right position.
  3. Play for a minimum of 10 minutes with your child. This is child-directed play! This can happen on the plane, in the airport, on the bus, in a vehicle, and so on. The child led play adds to your child’s feeling of connection with you. This simple act has a powerful impact on your child’s day.
  4. Bringing a transitional object with them like a blanket or stuffy that provides comfort when you can’t.
  5. Keeping to a routine that is similar to home when possible. This simply means having meals, snacks, and naps in the same order that they occur at home. I fully expect that these meals, snacks, and naps may be happening on the fly!

2. Reactive Reactions:

A reactive reaction is what you do after the tantrum has occurred or while it is in progress.

Some examples of Reactive Reactions are:

  1. Distraction is a common tactic used. There is a time and a place to use this technique. In the middle of a crowded area or in an unsafe place like the water or in the street. With the distraction, you may find that your child has a few more tantrums before he/ she seems ready to move on. I used to carry a few toys in my purse or backpack that I could pull out and use in these moments. If you are willing a movie or tv show can be a great distraction on the plane.
  2. Giving your child a few minutes on his/her own to calm down and process the moment. I personally find that timeouts are not effective when we are in a strange place. An alternative is to use time in. Time in is which is when you go with your child when he/she is taking a break away from the activity where the tantrum occurred.
  3. Letting the tantrum happen and then offering comfort when it is done. This can be referred to as offering connection. Children will often tantrum when they feel that their connection with a loved one has been affected.

As with all things related to children, you will find that some strategies work really well for one child and not well for another child. With time and patience, you will discover what works best for your child. I wish you all the best traveling with your child!

7 Tips to Improve Your Child’s Sleep Tonight

7 Tips to Improve Your Child’s Sleep Tonight

#Repost

During my practice as a sleep professional, I’ve gotten used to people asking me what the secret is to getting a baby to sleep through the night.

Of course, there is no ONE secret. Teaching a child healthy sleep habits is a combination of lots of different things.

But that doesn’t mean that there are not some shortcuts!  Today I’d like to share with you 7 different shortcuts you can start trying over the next few nights to get your child sleeping better.

Here we go:

Sleep Shortcut #1: Watch the waking hours

One of the BIGGEST enemies of sleep is overtiredness. Many parents are surprised to learn just how soon their children get overtired. Here’s a quick guide to how long your child should be awake between naps during the day:

  • Newborn to 3 months: 45 minutes to 1 hour 15 minutes of awake time
  • 3-5 months: 1.5-2 hours of awake time
  • 6-8 months: 2-3 hours of awake time
  • 9-12 months: 3-4 hours of awake time13 months to 2.5 years: 5-6 hours of awake time

If you make sure that your child is put down for naps BEFORE they get overtired, you will find that they fall asleep more easily at naptime AND that they are more relaxed at bedtime, too.

Sleep Shortcut #2: Don’t Be Afraid Of The Dark

We humans (babies and toddlers included) sleep better in the dark. Try making your child’s room as dark as possible. I recommend using blackout blinds, taping cardboard over the windows, or whatever it takes. In many cases, even the glow from a nightlight or a digital alarm clock can be enough to disrupt your child’s sleep cycle.

BONUS TIP: Try to keep your child’s room as dark as possible during daytime naps, too. This can often make a BIG difference in how long your child will nap during the day.

Sleep Shortcut #3: Be Predictable (And A Little Boring)

Babies and toddlers love predictable routines. And a predictable bedtime routine, lasting no longer than 45 minutes, is a great way to let your child know when the time for sleep is coming. Make sure that this routine is the same every single time. Remember, you want bedtime to be as predictable as possible for your child.

After your bedtime routine is complete, be boring. Lots of children will try to drag out bedtime by playing games, throwing toys out of the crib, standing up, etc. Don’t participate. If your child has thrown their blanket or favorite stuffed toy out of the crib, calmly return the item without saying a word.

Sleep Shortcut #4: Feed AFTER Naps, Not Before

The most common reason they infants and toddlers struggle to sleep has to do with a feeding-sleep association. They think that they need a bottle or nursing BEFORE they can fall asleep. By feeding right after nap-time instead of before you can help your child break this feeding-sleep association.

IMPORTANT NOTE: This strategy should only be used before naps, not before putting your child to bed for the night. A full tummy is needed to make sure your child does not wake up hungry during the night.

Sleep Shortcut #5: Same Place, Same Time

Remembering that our children love predictability, so it is a good idea to have your child sleep in the same place every day. For many parents, simply changing WHERE their child naps during the day causes a big improvement in the length and quality of nighttime sleep.

BONUS TIP: When you are putting your child to sleep for the night, it is a good idea to make sure that they fall asleep where you want them to stay asleep.

Sleep Shortcut #6: Try The 1, 2, 3 System

When your child wakes up during the night or during a nap and starts crying or fussing, try to wait a specific length of time before going in to check on them. The first day you try this, I recommend waiting exactly one minute before going in to check on your child. On the second day, wait two minutes. Three minutes on the third day, and so on. Why?

Why? Everyone, babies and toddlers included, will wake up briefly at the end of each 45-minute sleep cycle. Most adults wake so briefly that we do not even remember it in the morning. But children who have not learned to fall asleep independently need a little longer.

This 1, 2, 3 System gives your child the opportunity to get themselves back to sleep without your help.

Sleep Shortcut #7: Take Five

Before you put your child to bed, for naps or at nighttime, make sure the five-minute period before they are put to bed is very calm and relaxing.

The Next Step?

As I said, these are shortcuts and quick tricks that may help some parents get their children sleeping through the night.  I do hope that you will be one of the lucky parents who are able to solve their children’s sleep problems using one of these tricks. If not I am also here for you if you need a little more guidance. Feel free to book a 15-minute free call to discuss your child’s sleep issues and how I can help.

Routines and Schedules

Routines and Schedules

It is times like this that I want to go back to my past self and give myself a high five!! The routines we put in place when our son was 3 years old or younger are still in place with some minor changes through the years and they are still working well!! Bliss I tell you!

A routine is a series of things we do before or after an event. A schedule is based on set times certain events occur.

Schedules and Routines both have their place.

I find that set schedules do not work as well with infants but having a variety of routines in place does work really well.

We have a screen time schedule here which works like a charm! Our son watches a show about 8 am, 11 am (when he is home), and 4 pm. We do have to be a bit flexible but we put in this place we would focus hugely on watching his programs. Once the set times were in place the constant asking for a show came to a complete stop. My response is “yes you can at __ time” After staying consistent with this for a while he really took to it.

I often have parents ask why their child is so well-behaved at daycare or school and not as much at home. The first thing is that children will unload their feelings at home where they feel safe. The second thing is that there is a great deal of structure with routines and schedules so the children know what to expect.

I often recommend that parents maintain similar schedules and routines at home.

You may find that you continue certain routines from your childhood. It is really cool how routines and schedules can really help children feel safe, secure, and be willing to do the steps without even realizing it.

I have to admit that our morning routine is my favorite.

Morning routine:

  1. Come in and give mom a hug
  2. Bathroom
  3. Snuggles with Mom and/or Dad
  4. Get Dressed
  5. Start watching You-Tube (Pause when breakfast is ready)
  6. Eat Breakfast
  7. Call Grandma
  8. Brush Teeth
  9. Put on socks
  10. Finishing watching You-Tube while getting the outdoor gear on
  11. Out the Door

It typically is very smooth and we have been doing a routine similar to this since he was 3!

There are a few things that you can do to help your child get familiar with a routine.

  1. Be consistent
  2. Use visuals (written list for older children and list using pictures for younger children)
  3. Use verbal reminders
  4. Use a timer to remind your child when they have to move to the next step

You can use routines throughout your day! Have fun fitting in the routines and do not forget to make them a little fun for your child as well!!

If you would like some help figuring out how routines and schedules can help your family, please feel free to book a free 15 minute consult to ask how I can help. You can book the free call by clicking on the following link https://calendly.com/brenda-mcsween/15min.

Below is the video I did and based this blog post on. Feel free to listen…​

The More They Play, The Better They Sleep

The More They Play, The Better They Sleep

Play promotes sleep in young children and is an important part of a child’s daily routine.

Play starts at a young age.  The play looks so different depending on the age of your child.  The more they play the better they sleep!  Bring on the play!!

With a newborn, you will hear a great routine is EAT PLAY SLEEP.  This routine will help to prevent your child from developing an eat to sleep dependency. How do you play with a newborn??  You change their diaper, sing, look out the window, play with a rattle, look at pictures or just hold them and talk.  Since newborns sleep a great deal (15 to 18 hours) there is a limited time that there are awake to play.

As infants age, they will require more and more stimulation.  As your child grows, they will start to take an interest in different objects.  You might go out and buy the most elaborate toy; but, it is the box that it comes in that is the best for infants and toddlers (just watch closely – chewing hazard!).  Then they start to get mobile and find their own objects to like and dislike.  A few loud toys got thrown across the room in our house and it was not by me!

2012-10-01 11.40.54I quickly discovered the more fresh air I put into our day, the more sleep my little man was getting.  When possible, we went out. This started when he was quite young.  In the beginning, it was a stroller ride.  Then it evolved into playing at the park, going for a walk around the block, playing in the backyard, going to the zoo, and so on.   It does not have to be an elaborately planned activity.

For my sanity, I enjoyed meeting up with other people so I have some grown up conversation.  Meeting up with others gave my little man a chance to have a change in his scenery (a change from looking at me) and play with other children.  He fed off their energy!!  It is great.  He would go home and nap like a trooper!!!

We enrolled in some community activities as well. Parent and Child programs for the win!!  We were in gymnastics, a pre-preschool program for 2.5 hours 1 day a week, and dance class.  Considering my son is just 2.5 this is a great deal of activity.  I strongly encourage not to program children too much.  Still, leave time for spontaneous activity.

There are so many options available for children that it can be overwhelming!  There are gym programs, art programs, music programs, sports, library programs, 2012-09-15 19.04.57and dance programs.  A great deal of the programs run for 6 to 12 weeks at a time.  There are some programs that are consistent Monday to Friday from early morning until the late afternoon like child care settings and day homes. Even in these confusing Covid-19 times, you can find small programs that are following proper safety precautions or an online component that even the youngest of children enjoy.

I loved to find drop-in programs that did not require pre-registration and free activities.  These programs were excellent on the days that my brain was fried and I just need instant entertainment for my son.  Great examples of these activities are: drop-in storytime at your local library, coffee shop, and zoo; drop-in playgroups at your local gym, community center, bookstore, and churches; and our favorite was the walk around the mall (some malls have a great drop-in play area).

All the activities I previously discussed are great options; however, some days you just cannot leave the home, especially during isolation or quarantine.  On the days that we could not get out, I notice an increase in his temper tantrums and his naps seem to be shorter.  To prevent tantrums in the house I brought out activities that are not done daily.  A favorite of mine is building forts (aka throwing a blanket over something and hiding in there!!).  My little man enjoys playing music, so out come the pots, pans, and plastic containers.  I call this our instant band.

Now, not all children are like mine.  Not all children love to be out and about.  If your child is a person that likes to stay close to home; honor that when you can.  You can have so much fun playing at home.  If your child likes to stay home and naps well then do that.

Child-directed play is a great way to enhance your child’s independence.  This is when you let your child take the lead in the activity.  You let them choose what the activity is going to be.  You also let them be in control.  If they want to change the activity and do it in a different way I challenge you to let them.  For example, my 2.5-year-old will ask to play cards (yes we started him early)!  To him, playing cards is putting the cards on the table and he grabs some and gives you some.  Then he starts placing them down on the table. I have no idea what I am doing but I just follow his lead.  He is one proud little boy when someone will play cards his way!

Please enjoy the time you can play with your little ones.

Now excuse me while I go through some pictures of him while he was younger while he is playing online with his friends!