The broken bedtime routine. It's so maddening because you can remember when it used to work. Especially difficult because life doesn't magically pause while you try to manage your child's sleep problem…which has quickly become the entire family's sleep problem.
I have two children: a 3 YO son and a 10 month-old daughter. We live in a two-bedroom apartment so they share a room. My son used to go to bed very well. We had a great routine for bed: once I tucked him in I would rock my daughter to sleep.
Our world came crashing down when my husband was involved in a life-threatening accident at work. He spent six weeks in the hospital during which we stayed at my parents' house.
My son's bedtime routine changed: his grandparents put him to bed by turning on a movie and staying up with him until he fell asleep. I don't blame them — it was a stressful time for all of us.
Once my husband healed enough for us all to return home, I tried to go back to my children's original bedtime routine. It didn't work. My son would get out of bed, dig in the refrigerator for a snack and throw a fit to watch a movie. The only thing that I have been able to do is put a movie on for him, but he isn't sleeping in his bed — he is sleeping on the couch. I can't get him to sleep before 1 AM and I don't know what to do.
I can't make him lay down in his bed. He cries, then wakes up my daughter. When I go to soothe my daughter back to sleep my son runs into the living room and refuses to leave. By that time it's around 11 PM and I am ready to give up.
I literally don't know what to do anymore. I hope Parent Hacks readers can help.
Oh, so painful. I'm glad you had support as your husband recuperated, but I'm so sorry this is one of the side effects of the ordeal.
Any change in routine — even a long vacation — can upset the balance at bedtime for young kids. And bedtime needs and routines are so closely tied to each kid and situation…it's hard to give definitive advice. (Who am I to give sleep advice anyway? My first kid had a terrible time sleeping, and my second kid slept beautifully, and it's not clear how much I ever helped or hurt the situation.)
My gut tells me that the answer is calm, kind, firm persistence in reinstituting the routine. It won't be easy (as you already know) and it will be loud and distruptive for a time, but I expect, if movies are never again an option at bedtime, the fight would eventually ease up. Perhaps replacing the movie with some quiet movie music in bed? Or getting movie-themed picture books to read together? Sometimes offering a compromise lets the kid know you're listening to what he wants, but you're not budging on the TV at bedtime.
Parents of toddlers and preschoolers: any wisdom or helpful resources you can share with Santiaga? She really needs our help…certainly more than my "gut feeling" can provide.