HI everyone, thanks for the wonderful resources here – I’ve been able to build up a wonderful attachment with my toddler girl (23 months) to nurture her independence during this development period. In general, I have little complaints with her – she respects many of my limits and since she has developed decent language skills, we can communicate reasonably well. But her attachment to me is clear during bedtime which has become a nightly saga spanning from 7:30 or 8:00 through sometimes past 11:00. She wakes between 8 and 9 in the morning and gets a 1-1.5 hr nap during the day. She doesn’t exhibit much tiredness in general during the day, so I think her overall sleep falls within the lower end of the acceptable range. Still, I’d love to get her asleep much earlier and then wake earlier as well. I also desperately need my ‘me time’ back at night.
We generally have a bedtime routine after dinner of reading stories, bathtime, nursing, and then singing to sleep. I long for the ‘old days’ a couple months ago when I could announce bedtime and perhaps leave some milk and Cheerios for her to nibble on, and then leave the room and she’d go into her bed herself. No longer – after nursing and bathing, I have to lie down beside her and wait for her to fall asleep (as she needs me to be with her… not even daddy any more, as he used to do bedtime routine) but my presence also stimulates her so she’s constantly talking or singing or ‘bothering’ me (pointing at my nose, etc.) needing me to put on her blanket… or giving her late night snacks… that the time just draws out way too long.
There has been a lot of transition in her life to augment her attachment, so it is understandable, but I’ve love advice on how to work through the bedtimes of this challenging time: (a) we had a month-long vacation last December of going to Toronto to visit my parents and then to Hong Kong to visit my inlaws, (b) after we returned home, after two weeks, we packed everything up and moved across the country, (c) she started daycare 3 weeks ago when we used to have an in-home nanny for 3 hours in the morning (we’d be with her over lunch) and 3 hours in the afternoon.
The transition to our new home has seem to be okay with her… while she was initially (understandably) unsettled she has since seen all our belonging “come back” and often remarks about our “new home”. I think her transition to daycare has also gone reasonably well as we’ve been able to get her to understand that “mommy and daddy will come back to pick you up” (she often repeats this quite assuredly at bedtime) and she has grown to enjoy playing at daycare, sometimes not wanting to leave, though her attachment right afterwards is obvious (she has to be held a lot more than before), but we have a great bonding time through dinner, bath, and nursing, and she loves being with me all night. I know this transition time continues, but with bedtime taking so long, I get inevitably frustrated after 2 hours or after 10:30pm, whatever is earlier! And then my patience goes out the door. I realize one answer will be to incorporate Special Time in the evening. Any advice on the timing of it, and any other suggestions?
Thanks in advance!!
You are doing some really lovely parenting. What a lucky little girl to have you as a connected conscious Mama!
I’m sorry you have hit a bit of a rough patch with bedtime. Here’s the deal about bedtime – it is a time of SEPARATION – Therefore a lot of FEAR can get kicked up – which keeps them from being able to relax and fall asleep easily. Since your sweet girl has had a lot of transitions and changes lately, it’s completely understandable that a big chunk of fear has gotten stored in her emotional backpack – or limbic system. Thus she’s got a bit of an emotional project> going on.
The good news is that our Tools are perfect for helping her release that fear, so that she can separate and sleep well. The other piece of good news is that you can work on separation, even bedtime separation during the DAY!
The steps involved in working on an emotional project are:
1) YOU get listening time with a LISTENING PARTNER. YOU need a place to offload your own FEAR and worry. There is something magical that happens when we get to offload our frustration. Often I find my son shifts without me seeming to have to do anything. If you don’t have a Listening Partner there are lots of good parents in the membership program who are eager to exchange Listening Time. Since it’s FEAR that is causing this behavior, you want to be able to be calm, connected playful and patient and ANCHOR your sweet girl in your nonverbal belief that she will get through this.
2) Ramp up the SPECIAL TIME – it’s best to do Special Time more frequently in smaller doses – 5-7 minutes several times each day if you can. Make sure you use a TIMER. That gives her a LIMIT to bump up against. More Special Time will pour in more safety and connection. And more endings will give her more opportunities to offload. Special Time can be an opportunity to work on Separation. When the timer goes off, you PROPOSE that you have to go into the other room to do something. Proposing that you need to separate may be enough of a PRETEXT for her to have a tantrum. That’s a good thing!!! Then you can STAYLISTEN to her feelings during the day when you have lots of energy.
3) Do lots of rough’n’tumble physical PLAY where you take the LESS powerful role. She needs this skin-to-skin contact to help her FEEL you; feel your connection. This rough play helps counter her feelings of powerlessness and fear. You particularly want to do this at night before bedtime. The more connection and play you can put into your bedtime routine the better! Fill her connection cup!
You can also play some separation games during the day. Laughter is also offloading fear and here are some games you can play
4) Set little limits early and often. Look for little limits to set during the day – again when you have more energy to staylisten. Set a Little Limit on something you might normally work-around…. For example, normally you might give her a different piece of toast if she complains, or put on her shoes so you can get out the door. Instead of doing a work-around, if you have time, Set A Limit. It’s not about the toast or the shoes. It’s about giving her more opportunities to cry hard and release some of the fear. When you BRING the Limit, then you will calmly STAYLISTEN to her tears. The more you listen to her feelings during the day, the easier bedtime may become. Here’s an example:
Here are a few more ideas specifically about bedtime. I notice that you are fulfilling a lot of her requests at bedtime. I am going to recommend that you do Special Time, 5 mins of rough/n/tumble play and then BRING the limit that it’s time for lights out. That’s the clean limit. She’s already had a snack before Special Time. She’s had a drink of water and used the potty. Now, you hold that limit and say a nice warm ‘no’ to everything else. You say ‘no’ to more snacks and a big warm ‘yes’ to your confidence that she can do this. You PROPOSE that you are going to leave and you take a step back. You are looking for the ‘sweet spot’ – not so close that she can tamp down her feelings, but not so far away that she runs out of bed. Here is one Mom’s experience with setting a limit and staylistening at bedtime.
The key to all of this, good mama, is YOU getting emotional support. in Listening Time. You need a place to dump your resentment that she is no longer drifting off to sleep without you. If you get some good Listening Time then you will be able to be creative and playful and set limits and Listen. Your sweet girl is longing to dump this fear, and you are just the smart mama to help her do it.
Let us know how it goes and how we may continue to support you.
Peace & Smiles,
Hand in Hand Certified Instructor
Conscious Child-raising Creating Cooperation and Peace
Follow me on facebook: Parenting by Connection with Kathy
“If we are to teach real peace in the world, we shall have to begin with children” – Gandhi
Thanks so much for the very concretely useful information. It was helpful to understand that the ending of Special Time is integral to the fun-loving time within in allowing a mini-separation and what that brings. Things have definitely gotten better over this week with these small changes. We’ve been successful to explain that mommy and daddy will return when at “Sky blue”, and that’s given her more comfort during bedtime.
While I’m still stuck in her room until she falls asleep, but hopefully we’ll be able to work through this transition as we continue to set more limits during the day to increase her confidence.
Thanks a million!! Greatly, greatly appreciated.
Rock on, good Mama!
You are doing great! Thanks for letting us know how it’s going. If things seem to stall, YOU can shift things if YOU get more Listening time.
peace & smiles,