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Having been a single parent for several years myself, when I was approached by Daniel Sherwin, author of DadSolo.com, to write a guest blog about single parents and sleep, I jumped at the idea. As many single parents know, their little ones’ sleep can be even more of an emotional battle once they are going it alone, and here, Daniel helps us understand why, and what can be done to help.
How a Single Parent Can Develop a Sleep Routine
Sleep plays a critical role in your child’s physical, emotional, and cognitive development. It’s also important for good health. But research shows that children living in single-parent homes see a significant decrease in healthy sleep patterns, and a greater variability of routine bedtimes leaving them more tired than their 2-parent home peers.
There are several things that can contribute to irregular sleep in a single parent home. For one, children are more likely to misbehave with the parent that is in the day-to-day disciplinarian role. This role also leads parents to feel guilty because they are often the “bad guy” and this can lead to extended bedtimes, more leniency about middle of the night visits, and other habits that make for poor sleep hygiene.
Similarly, lonely single parents can end up more attached to their children. Looking for friendship and support which blurs the lines of parent when it comes to bedtime rituals.
Whatever the roadblock is, it’s important to remember the importance of good sleep for your child so you can get them back into a healthy routine.
Create A Healthy Sleep Routine
- Set a bedtime-Learn the recommended sleep times per age, and set the appropriate bedtime for your child based on when their wake-up time is. Stick to the same bedtime and wake-up time on the weekends so that your child maintains a healthy sleep-wake cycle.
- Add a “Relaxation Hour”-Make the hour before bedtime a special “relaxation hour.” Use this time to unwind with no television, computers or other electronic devices. Use ambient light versus powerful overhead lights to add to the calming effect. Also, take this hour to focus on techniques that will help your child relax, such as a bath or bedtime reading.
- Watch your food and drink-Meals and caffeine should be avoided several hours before bedtime. Chose a light, healthy bedtime snack instead.
- Avoid late night visits-If your child is visiting in the middle of the night, it’s important to establish clear rules for immediately returning to bed. As tempting as it is to be the “good parent” in these moments, you’ll be creating a poor habit by doing so.
Create A Stress-Free Home Environment
- Add fitness-Make time each day for fitness, especially activities down outdoors. Physical fitness is directly correlated to better sleeping habits.
- Keep your cool-Your child can sense when you’re anxious and stressed, so it’s important to let them see you handling life matters in calm way. This will also model similar behavior for them as they grow; teaching them valuable coping skills.
- Don’t overschedule-Children who have too many activities often feel too much pressure and anxiety because they’re exhausted and experiencing no necessary downtime.
- Focus on the positive-Constant criticizing and negativity can make your child anxious. Instead, focus on the great things they are doing, particularly at bedtime.
- Keep communication lines open-Make sure your child knows that they can talk to you about their thoughts and feelings. Strong communication lines promote security as children feel more loved and cared for, allowing them to relax and sleep easier.
Create A Healthy Sleeping Quarters
- Color-Make sure the room is painted a color that is conducive for good sleep.
- Alarm clocks-Make sure the numbers aren’t too bright. Light can cause nighttime disturbance.
- Noise machine-Consider having an ambient noise machine. Small noises can affect some sleepers, but adding white noise can reduce mid-night waking.
- Cell phones-Phones should not be kept in your children’s bedroom.
- Window coverings-Make sure that the window has a blind or a curtain that can block light.
- Pillow-Help your child pick a pillow that is comfortable for them.
- Blanket-Choose a blanket together that is the perfect weight and texture.
- Room temperature-Make sure your child’s bedroom is not too warm or cool. In general, the recommended sleeping temperature is 60 to 67 degrees.
Remember, good sleep is critical for your child’s overall development and their health. But bedtime can be just as important for you, as a single parent. Make your children’s bedtime, your coveted “me time,” by enjoying a soothing bath, a glass of wine, or a good book. You’ll find a little quality self-care time will also make you a better parent.