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Children are more confused and anxious than ever before with the pandemic disturbing their schooling and daily routines. A good night’s sleep is crucial to keeping children happy, energised, and making sure they focus on their school work. Express.co.uk chatted to Chireal Shallow, leading consultant psychologist and sleep expert in partnership with Bloom and Blossom to find out how to get your children to sleep. Read on to find out the seven best ways.
Pictures of grandparents
Putting pictures of your child’s grandparents on their bedroom walls could help them drift off to sleep.
Ms Shallow said: “If your child is struggling to get to sleep, putting up pictures of family members they are fond of, such as grandparents, can be a huge help.
“This is because your children are likely to have warm feelings towards their Gran and Grandad for example, and this will help to soothe them and calm them down before bed.
“Of course, it doesn’t have to be a grandparent – it can be anyone in your family that your child feels close to and looks up to.
“Having pictures of people they are familiar with on the wall will definitely help them relax more than posters of their favourite musicians or film stars.”
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Worry doll or worry box
Just like adults, anxiety keeps children up worrying.
A worry doll or worry box could help them to get rid of these anxieties and relax before bed.
Ms Shallow said: “If you can, try to address and alleviate worries before bedtime, and remove them completely from the bedroom.
“Bedrooms should be a safe haven, free of the stresses and worries of the day – and a good way of ensuring this is by buying your child a worry doll.
“Encourage them to air their thoughts to that – almost like an imaginary friend, but with a physical presence.”
If your child doesn’t want to tell you their worries, get them a worry box.
Simply put a box in another room in the house and encourage your child to write down their worries and put them in the box.
Ms Shallow added: “Then, perhaps after tea, take out the sheets of paper and go through them one by one as a family.
“This will mean that your child feels as though they are being listened to, and implementing it as a family activity shows that it is important.”
Mirrors are a staple in many adult bedrooms, but kids don’t need them.
In fact, mirrors could make children more anxious before bedtime.
Ms Shallow said: “One aspect of feng shui claims that if you have your mirror at the end of your bed, it gives off bad energy.
“Not only this, but reflections in the night can also be very scary for younger children as their imagination goes wild.
“Get rid of clothes and coats hanging on the back of doors and chairs too as these can look like frightening figures to children that wake up in the early hours.
“Spraying your child’s bedding with something calming and fragrant, such as Bloom and Blossom’s BFG pillow spray, or the Matilda version is a good way of making going to bed seem more appealing too.”
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Long bedtime stories
You’d think a short bedtime story would help your child to switch off and go to sleep, but you’re better off reading them a long story.
Ms Shallow explained: “You want your bedtime stories to have longevity, and keep your child interested enough so that they want to continue reading it the following day to find out what happens next.
“That’s why I would always recommend longer reads with lots of chapters, that you can space out over a number of days or even weeks.
“Opt for longer books and split them out into 20-30 minute sessions each night.
“It takes anything from two to four weeks to establish a proper routine, so you want the books on your side. “
You might have heard that eating cheese before bedtime gives you nightmares… but that isn’t the case!
Ms Shallow recommends giving your kids cottage cheese before bed.
She said: “Cottage cheese is great for getting kids to sleep as it is full of the amino acid tryptophan, which can increase serotonin levels.
“Yet we know parents can struggle with encouraging children to eat new foods.
“The secret is to be crafty and creative. Present it to them in a way that is palatable – try hiding it under a plate of colour fruit for example.”
A dull ceiling can keep kids awake, so why not create something more exciting on the ceiling?
Ms Shallow said: “We all know how relaxing gazing at the night sky can be, and there’s no reason why you can’t create something similar in your child’s bedroom.
“Investing in glow-in-the-dark stars to stick on the roof above your child’s bed is a great way of creating this atmosphere, as the mesmerising – almost hypnotic – effect can help young children to nod off.”
If you have more than one child you will know that it’s difficult to have different bedtimes for each child, especially if there’s a big age gap between them.
Ms Shallow recommends scrapping the curfews and allowing all children to go to bed at the same time.
She said: “This might mean finding a happy medium.
“For example, if you have a young child that normally goes to bed at 7pm, and a slightly older one that goes at 9pm, try meeting in the middle and aim to get them both to sleep by 8pm.
“The older child might not take too kindly to losing an hour at first – but as a parent, you have to choose the path with least resistance – and if things aren’t working currently, then you need to mix it up.”
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