Tag health

How do I get my kid to sleep in his or her own bed?!

mom frustrated by depressed daughterFirst I should state that co-sleeping, or kids sleeping in the same bed as their parents, is a culture bound phenomenon that is inherently neither healthy or dysfunctional. So, if you’re from a culture where this is common, and none of the caveats I describe below are in play, no worries. However, there are instances when co-sleeping is symptomatic of an underlying problem. In my experience, the most common of these are marital disturbance, adult loneliness, anxiety–in the child and/or the parent(s)–or some combination of the three. The purpose of this post is to suggest strategies for dealing with situations when you wish for your child to sleep in his/her own room but s/he is freaked out about that (the other problems could be addressed in counseling; you may also find articles pertaining to those topics within this blog site).

Avoidance is rarely an effective strategy for coping with fears that your child has regarding developmentally appropriate activities or situations. As none of we engaged parents are happier than our least happy child, it’s natural for us to support avoiding those (developmentally appropriate activities or situations) that distress our child. But, avoidance is a jealous strategy; the more it is used the more it pulls to be used. Plus, avoidance doesn’t deal with the underlying problem. Keeping in mind that you may need professional and tailored consultation, here are some strategies to try on your own (some of these are merely strategies for promoting sleep hygiene).

• Set up an incentive program for sleeping alone. If your child is younger, or the asian boy looking up white backgroundproblem is a mild one, a star chart may suffice (i.e., each successful night earns a star on a chart). Make it so that that your child earns something s/he desires after so many stars are on the chart. If your child is older, or the problem is more significant, it may be more effective to establish a daily incentive program (i.e., sleeping alone earns the privilege of watching TV the next day). There are multiple possible permutations of this that I review in Chapter Five of my parenting book. However, the bottom line idea is to make it in your child’s best interest, as s/he perceives such, to sleep alone.

• If your child is showing a lot of distress about this, you could use the technique of shaping. With your incentive program in place, let the first phase be a reward for something that is a small step forward from where you are at now (e.g., you lay with your child helping her/him to fall asleep in her/his bed, then leave, for a week; then progress to being in a chair in her room as s/he sleeps; then you are in the hallway, etc.).

child sleeping in bed• Install a nightlight if that comforts your child.

• Allow your child to fall asleep to soothing music or to an audio book of familiar material (you don’t want him/her trying to stay up to hear the next development in the plot line); just make sure it shuts off after a designated time. Alternatively, you could read your child a book. (You could also use shaping for both of these strategies).

• Your child may find a lavender aroma in the room to be soothing.

• A bath or shower before bed can be relaxing and prepare your child for sleep.

• Try to keep your child from consuming caffeinated beverages in the afternoon and evening. A balanced diet is also something that can make a positive contribution to most behavioral problems that kids display.

• Try to ritualize the hour before bedtime (i.e., usually the same procedures followed in the same order).happy jumping black boy, white background

• Having had at least an hour a day of physical activity (i.e., sweating and breathing hard) can facilitate a good night’s sleep.

• Try to avoid intellectually demanding or exciting activities the hour before bedtime.

If these strategies don’t resolve the problem in a short period of time, and in consultation with your child’s pediatrician, it would usually be advisable to seek out the services of a qualified mental health professional. Click here for a referral.

Kids’ physical activity: 7 thinking traps

The tripod of kids’ physical health consists of sleep, nutrition and physical activity. This blog entry focuses on seven thinking traps we parents commonly engage in regarding the latter.

#1 I don’t need to think about a daily dosing of physical activity for my kid.

Recent research has suggested that obesity exists at alarming rates. For instance, a 2010 study published by the Journal of the American Medical Association, found that 10 percent of newborns and toddlers fall in the obese range with the number rising to 17% among ages 2-19 (one out of three were at the 85th percentile or higher). A lack of physical activity, together with problems with sleep and nutrition, are on a short list of causes for childhood obesity. This is why several authoritative bodies (i.e., the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services and the U.S. Department of Agriculture), have recommended that kids sweat and breath hard one hour each day (a 2009 national study by the Center for Disease Control found that less than one out of five teens is active at this level).

#2 My kids’ level of physical activity is unrelated to my level of physical activity.

There are few ways that a family is more connected than in the execution of health habits. My level of physical activity affects my physical wellness, mood, energy level and motivation, all of which impacts my capacity to parent with intention. Moreover, my level of physical activity models such behavior for my child and influences the proportion of family activities that are either active or sedentary. If you are struggling to get going try reading my blog entry on forming and keeping resolutions.

#3 My kid needs to “exercise” in order to be physically active and that is too much of a battle or takes too much out of us in terms of time, cost or effort.

The word “exercise” brings to mind images of a reluctant kid on a treadmill,  with a chastising parent in the background. This is part of the reason why it’s better to use the term “physical activity” instead of “exercise.” This wording is broader in scope and less unpleasant in its implications.

That said, I agree that it can be challenging to get big snowballs moving downhill, but once they get going things often become much easier. Moreover, keep in mind that if your child has a gym class or a sports related extracurricular activity he or she may already be engaging in a lot of physical activity. And, there are many easy ways to integrate more physical activity within your family life, as this download can illustrate.

All this said, some kids need a discipline plan to do well. For a brief overview of the relevant issues, click here; for a more detailed and specific discussion regarding strategies, see chapter five of my parenting book, Working Parents, Thriving Families.

#4 Kids need a lot of willpower to get recommended doses of physical activity.

I’m not a big fan of willpower as a primary tool for improving and supporting adaptive health habits. For this reason. I think its important to minimize reliance on willpower whenever possible (e.g., see my blog entry on forming and keeping resolutions). That said, some degree of willpower is necessary for just about any worthwhile human endeavor. As psychologist Dr. Erich Fromm pointed out in his classic book The Art of Loving, if I do just about anything only when I feel like it, I will experience only compromised outcomes.

Fortunately, this month The American Psychological Association published useful survey research on willpower, together with a helpful list of self-help articles for strengthening and supporting it. For these resources, click here.

#5 Physical activity is fine, once required activities have been completed and we have the time for it.

When someone represents this thought I suspect that she or he has not been made aware of the research indicating the significant consequences that are associated with a lack of physical activity, even when a child is not overweight (see the next point). Moreover, physical activity can nicely break up a day that might otherwise be filled with high doses of duty and obligation (e.g., academics, chores). I wouldn’t say “nutrition is fine, once required activities have been completed and we have the time for it.” The same thing is true regarding my kid’s physical activity (and sleep).

#6 The consequences of not being physically active only catch up with people in adulthood. So we have some time.

This is simply not true. Not only is obesity at risk (which comes with its own collection of adverse outcomes), but kids who are physically active have better moods, concentrate better, are more engaged with their families, have higher self-esteem, are socially more effective and are at reduced risk for an assortment of medical and psychiatric maladies. Indeed, being physically active is a primary resilience variable. This is why I focus on it in my parenting book as well as in my personal life (e.g., I’m a devotee of Tony Horton’s P90X programs, my three kids do a combination of 10 different sports activities throughout the year).

#7 This is hopeless. All I’ve tried has failed. I just need to live and let live when it comes to my child’s physical activity.

Hopelessness with this issue is never warranted, at least in every instance that has crossed my eye line. If you’re having these kinds of thoughts I’d recommend seeking out the services of a good child mental health professional. To find someone near you, click here.

Related blog articles not mentioned above:

Five Questions for Effectively Parenting Your Kid in Sports

Helping Your Child Get a Good Night’s Sleep

A Chronic Health Problem in Teens: A Lack of Sleep

Is Your Kid Getting Enough Sleep?

51 Truths, As I See Things Anyway

A Chronic Health Problem in Teens: a Lack of Sleep

The National Sleep Foundation does an annual Sleep in America Poll. Their 2011 edition, which has the theme of “Communication Technology in the Bedroom” was just published. In this blog I’m going to summarize the findings as they regard teenagers, which the poll refers to as Generation Z’ers.

Almost three out of four teens report bringing their cell phones into their bedrooms at night, with 56% texting every night/almost every night in the hour before bedtime. This is concerning as those who text in this hour are less likely to say they got a good night’s sleep, less likely to wake up feeling rested, more likely to be characterized as sleepy the next day and more likely to drive drowsy.  Moreover, 28% percent of teens leave their cell phone ringers on at night and 18 percent report being awakened by incoming transmissions. Finally, when they wake up at night 35% of teens report that they will text.

The poll also found, as has been the case with previous editions of this survey, that our teens are not getting enough sleep.  This year 4 out of 10 teens reported getting less than the minimal recommended dose of sleep each night with 60% stating that they wake up feeling like they had not gotten enough sleep (46% indicated that they rarely/never get a good night’s sleep on weekdays and only 6% endorsed getting a good night’s sleep every school night).  Moreover, among those that drive, 40% indicated that they have driven drowsy.  In total 77% of teenagers reported having sleep problems at least a few nights/days a week (e.g., 34% of teens report taking more than 30 minutes to fall asleep at night).  Despite these problems teens seem to be aware of how many hours a night they need to be rested (i.e., 61% indicated that they need 8-9 hours, or more, to be rested).

The poll also asked the teens what areas are negatively affected the next day when they are tired. These are the areas they indicated become problematic (the percentage endorsing the problem is in parentheses): mood (87%), schoolwork (84%), family life or home responsibilities (73%), and social life or leisure activities (68%). (Please see my previous blog entry that reviews both the negative next-day consequences, for youth, of being deprived of just one hour of sleep as well as the National Sleep Foundation’s recommendations for how much sleep kids should get each night.)

Other findings:

√ More than three out of four teens use their laptops in their bedrooms in the hour before going to sleep. Most of the poor sleep outcomes that are associated with texting in this hour are also associated with this kind of activity.

√ Sixty percent of teens drink caffeinated beverages each day, with one out of four drinking four or more.

√One percent of teens report using an e-book reader in the hour before bedtime.

To review strategies for promoting a good night’s sleep in your child click here. For now the obvious thing to say is that we parents do well to be mindful of how much sleep our teens need as well as what the likely consequences will be if they are deprived of such.

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