Understanding the role of sleep and stress for kids
Growing up is full of little ups and downs, but most importantly, it’s full of changes and firsts which can sometimes be overwhelming for children. Though parents hope that their children’s lives are filled with play and joy, events such as moving to a new home, a new sibling, sleeping in their own room, starting school, making friends, going to the doctor, or learning new skills such as swimming, can cause stress and worry in a child.
When children are stressed, they might also have more difficulty sleeping and wake up more often during the night, which could lead to a cycle of stress and sleeplessness. Most of these worries are a normal part of growing up, yet with COVID19, this year has proved to be even more challenging for children and parents alike. From having to stop school, being away from friends, and fearing the unknown, it’s likely been a lot to handle for little ones.
RESCUE Remedy® has put together some useful info and tips to help you understand the importance of sleep and how to manage your kids’ stress levels better.
1. Morning routine
Consistency is key for children and having a stable morning and bedtime routine can help children feel more comfortable, ease their stress levels, and improve their sleep habits. Try to wake the kids up at the same time every morning and follow a similar pattern for getting ready. Maybe you’ll have them eat breakfast first, then get ready, maybe you’ll listen to the radio in the car, just make sure things stay consistent.
If you start seeing signs of stress in your children, such as struggling to sleep, agitation, irritation, trouble concentrating, or other physical symptoms, create a comfortable space for them to open up and talk about their worries. Let them know it’s ok to feel that way so that they know they can always turn to you when they’re feeling stressed.
3. Prepare children for change
Give your kids a heads up about any upcoming changes in advance, so that they have time to accept the change and prepare for it. Talk them through what’s going to happen and give them positive details about the change to come. For example, if you’re moving to a new area, find some exciting activities your children can do in the new neighbourhood.
4. Make challenging situations fun
Some ‘firsts’ can be tricky to handle for children, such as going to the doctor or changing schools, but finding ways to make those situations fun or entertaining for children could help relax them and make the experience more positive. For example, if your child has a doctor’s appointment that is causing them stress, bring games along with you to play in the waiting room, or make a ‘fun day’ out of it by going to the movies or a playground afterwards.
5. Stay calm
Children will look to their parents when they feel uncertain about things and are struggling to control their emotions, and though parents might also be dealing with their own worries, being a calm and consistent presence in your kids’ lives can help them feel more secure and know that they don’t need to worry. Of course, communicating is important, so if you’re trying to stay calm yourself, make sure you are still allowing your children to ask questions and talk about their concerns. Mindfulness is a buzzword amongst adults, but it can also be used to help kids with their own troubles. There are plenty of kids’ mindfulness and meditation videos on YouTube that you can try out together!
6. Create a calming bedtime routine
Stress can cause children to have difficulty sleeping but implementing a consistent routine before bed can help them relax and wind down. Some sleep tips include having a nice family dinner, discussing the best part of your day all together, drawing them a bath, reading them a bedtime story and making sure they get to sleep at the same time every night.