“Turn off my brain”

“Turn off my brain”

The first time our son said “Mommy can you help me turn off my brain” my heart felt like it weighed 1000lbs. I scooped him up and gave him a huge hug. We chatted for a bit and I introduced a few techniques to teach him how to stop the racing thoughts he was experiencing (more on this later).

Our son has always been a young one that thought things through or over thinks. I have had to have many conversations with him that his friends have just not asked. Saying things like “that will not happen” or “do not worry about that” just does not work.

Here is an example of something he has said:

I am giving him his snuggle before bed and he was about 5 years old. I was going out with a friend that evening. He says “what happens if you do not come home?” and I reply “I will”. Then he says “what if you do not?”. Knowing him I then said, “Your Daddy will take care of you”. You can imagine the next question, “what if something happens to Daddy?”.

Okay, time to pick up my heart off the floor and cancel my night out.

That would have been one solution. Instead, we talked about the plan of who would care for him if something happened to one or both of us. This helped him and he was able to go to sleep. Taking the time to process and not get frustrated was key in this situation.

It does seem like a number of these conversations come up at bedtime. I could be extremely frustrated by bedtime stalling but instead, I choose to see that bedtime is when he lays there and thinks. (This could be a family trait 🙂 )

 
So what do I do to help him??

Well, I have taught him some strategies to change his thought patterns. How do you do this with a child?

1. Hear what he has to say.

2. Be Empathetic: “that sounds scary”, “wow that is hard”, “that is a yucky thought”.

3. Offer comfort: “would you like a hug”.

4. Get him to think about something funny or guide him to happier thoughts.

5. Turn on a guided meditative story so he has something else to focus on.

6. Check in after a few minutes to let him know I am there

7. Move on

 
Some additional strategies:

1. Talk Time: Have a time you set aside each day for your child to discuss anything that is bothering them. We do this at supper.

2. Worry Box: your child can write down or draw (or have you write down) their worries and put the papers in a box.

3. Worry Dolls or Rocks: Give your child a small rock or doll to tell their worries too. Then the item gets placed in a safe place (under their pillow or and the dresser). The item takes the worries from the child.

4. Deep Breathing: “smell the flower and blow out the candle”.

5. Guided meditation: There are a number of good apps that can help you teach your child how to meditate or you can lead by example.

 

If you have a little thinker and would like more support feel free to join Parenting Foundations Membership or book a free 15-minute call to learn how you can work with Brenda from Parenting Foundations.

Early Mornings Getting the Best of you??

Early Mornings Getting the Best of you??

This time of year I get a flood of inquiries about early morning wakings. If your child is waking up way before you are ready to wake up, know that you are not alone!

What is it about this time of year that causes this common theme?..any guesses??

The answer…the longest day of the year is fast approaching!! What??? With the longest day of the year comes a great deal of sunshine. That light creeps in really early which affects your child’s circadian rhythm (body’s internal clock). How do you fix this?

Blackout the light as much as possible. The light can creep in where you least expect it!

So your child has a very dark room and your child is still waking early. Now what??

Well with the increased daylight often comes increased outside activity. The outside activity can lead to your child getting tired a bit earlier. This can be an issue because the earlier bedtime can lead to your child being ready to wake up sooner.

If your child is not going to bed earlier your child may be getting overtired. A child that is overtired can also lead to early mornings.

It may seem like you are darned if you do and darned if you do not.

I would recommend that you bring your child’s bedtime 15 minutes earlier than usual which may still seem like your child is still wanting to go to bed a bit earlier. You can keep your child awake with mild activity and child-directed play.

If you are still experiencing the early mornings then send me a private message or post in the facebook group if you are a member of Parenting Foundations (Parenting Foundations Membership). If you are not a Parenting Foundations member then you can book a free 15-minute call.

 

Key Night Time Phrase..What is the Point?

Key Night Time Phrase..What is the Point?

 

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 are little ones to go to sleep and stay asleep for long periods of time. 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 which can cause the melatonin to start to produce.

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!!

The Power of 15 minutes

The Power of 15 minutes

I often find it incredible how a simple 15 minute time interval can make such a difference. 

When we are teaching our young children how to sleep I find that people will move mountains, buy all the gadgets available, read all the books and not be aware of the power of a time block that will improve sleep immensely.

It can be really frustrating as a parent when a little one seems to be getting in the groove of sleeping and then bam, sleep has exited the building. Adding 15 minutes of being awake before each sleep can be an absolute game changer! 

If your child has been sleeping okay and then things fall off the rails, simply add 15 minutes of awake time before you offer a nap or bedtime. Falling off the rails usually means waking up several times a night, waking for a long period of time, waking at the crack of dawn, or fighting going to sleep. Often when you add the 15 minutes of awake time your child gets back on track quite quickly.

 You may find that you are adding 15 minutes of awake time every couple of weeks. That is quite normal!

Another way to use the 15 minute block of time is to only spend 15 minutes trying to get your child back to sleep after a short nap. I often hear families that will keep trying to get their child back to sleep every 30 minutes or so after a short nap. This turns into an exercise of frustration for the child and parent.  After 15 minutes of trying to get your child back to sleep, stop and wait for the next period of time when your child is ready for sleep according to her desired wake time.

Do not underestimate the power of the 15 minute block!

 

Sleep Props? What do you mean?

Sleep Props? What do you mean?

Sleep Prop?  Lots of parents, including myself, have had no idea that their child is dependent on a prop to go to sleep or stay asleep.

A sleep prop is an object, action or person that a child requires in order to go to sleep. Your child is dependent on a sleep prop if you find yourself getting up many times to replace a soother, rock a child, go for a car ride, or feed your child.

Here is a list of some common sleep props:

  • soother
  • rocking to sleep
  • car ride
  • stroller
  • feed (bottle or breast feed)
  • person (mom, dad, or other care provider)
  • swaddle
  • swing
  • swaying

Now should you dump all props immediately? It depends on the age of the child.

The first three months can be difficult for a baby to sleep, so you do what you can. There will be a few times that you will use a sleep prop, don’t beat yourself up for it.  Your baby needs rest, end of story.The first few months you do what you can to teach your child to sleep.

In my opinion, the key is to eventually reduce or eliminate your child’s need for a prop.  Once your child learns to put themselves to sleep without a sleep prop it is an amazing moment. You and all other family members will actually get a half decent sleep – it really does happen.

Now that our youngest is two years old, the first few months are a blur; however, I remember being very sleep deprived and frustrated with his lack of napping.  I felt for him and I could tell he was exhausted (crying, easily frustrated, rubbing his eyes, etc).

I took a look at his sleep and environment. We were rocking him while giving him a bottle before he fell asleep.  Every time he woke up he required a feed in the rocking chair to go back to sleep.  The kicker with our boy was that after every feed he had to be held upright for 20 to 30 minutes to prevent him from throwing up his feed. (Acid reflux is not fun.)  It was near impossible to keep him awake.  He then became dependent on a person to hold him.  Yikes!

With time and patience, he was able to sleep on his own. He did have to be taught to sleep without a prop and we had to remain calm.  The first few nights our little man slept on his own, I woke up wondering if everything was okay.  It was beautiful to hear him sleeping so peacefully.

Your child can be an amazing sleeper as well.  We can work together to discover your child’s sleep prop (it’s amazing what a prop can be) and teach him or her how to sleep without it.

Happy sleeping, everyone!

 

The Colour of Noise

The Colour of Noise

We often hear of the effect white noise can have on you or your child’s sleep. Who knew there are other colours of noise?? Not me. My guest blog post today is from the amazing Jerylin Gan, Ph.D. about the colours of noise.


Have trouble sleeping?  A toddler who wakes whenever you accidentally step on that creaky floorboard?  Just hate the sound of those damn chipper little birds at 5 am?  Then someone’s probably recommended playing white noise in the background.  Maybe in the form of a fan, a mp3 of a waterfall, or one of those sleep sheep stuffed animals that play a heartbeat as well.  

From my experience, white noise is wonderful.  Both my kiddos and husband will wake at the drop of a hat.  But you know what I’ve found works better for me?  Pink noise.  That’s right.  There’s more than one colour of noise!

There’s white, pink, brown, gray, and violet noise (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Colors_of_noise).  The difference between the colours is how loud certain frequencies are.  Low frequencies sound low to human ears; high frequencies are higher pitched.  “Noise” is when you play a lot of frequencies at the same time.  White noise is when all frequencies are played at the same volume.  Pink noise is when lower frequencies are played slightly louder than the higher frequencies.  Brown noise is when lower frequencies are played a lot louder than higher frequencies.  

And though it’s hard for most people to tell the difference between the different colours of noise, they’ve been shown to have different effects on people. What might be soothing for one (e.g. the sound of a vacuum to my friend’s baby) might sound awful to another individual (e.g. the sound of a vacuum to me).  So experiment!  Try to see if you like white, pink or brown noise.  See which noise might help you sleep better.  See which noise will help you concentrate on a task!  

Jerylin Gan, Ph.D.

You may wonder who is Jerylin Gan, Ph.D.? Well, let me fill you in. Jerylin is currently an amazing stay at home mom with a passion to ensure her children are getting the much-needed rest they require. Jerylin has a BA in Molecular and Cellular Biology from UC Berkeley, PhD in Neurobiology and Behavior from the University of Washington, Seattle and she did further training at Cornell Medical School. She is my go-to person when looking at the science behind a number of studies we see popping up on social media.

Originally posted June 21, 2016 

Updated and re-posted Nov 23, 1018