Calming Bedtime Routines for Children With Anxiety

A young child who is prone to anxiety is likely to have a difficult time falling asleep at night. Often the bedtime hours will drag on until the child finally falls asleep from sheer exhaustion. The most important thing to know when implementing a new bedtime routine for your young child with anxiety is the following: you can not force a child(or any person) to go to sleep; the only thing that you can do is create an environment in which sleep is likely to take over. So, how can you go about doing this for a young child?

It will take some additional effort on your end. Young children under 6 rarely have an easy time going to sleep without significant parental involvement. Here are a few ideas for creating an atmosphere which is conducive to sleep:

Signal Bedtime – Dim the lights at least 45 minutes before bedtime. During this window, provide quiet activities for your child. Consider playing with blocks on the floor, doing a puzzle at the table, lacing beads together while relaxing on the couch, coloring, or participating in any other low-stimulation activity that you can think of.

Draw a Relaxing Bath – Baths are a lovely way for a child to wind down and relax. Add some calming essential oils, such as lavender or chamomile, to help aid in the relaxation process. Make the bathwater warm and soothing and try to encourage quiet play.

Provide White Noise – White noise during bedtime can help calm the mind. White noise can also quickly become a powerful sleep cue for your child, allowing bedtime to be easier when traveling.

Stay With Your Child or Check In–  A lot of bedtime struggles can be bypassed if a child feels completely secure from the time they climb into bed until the time that they fall asleep. Often children fight bedtime because they do not like falling asleep by themselves, and anxious children are often truly scared. If you feel that this is the case with your child, help foster a feeling of security by remaining present with your child until they fall asleep. Although it may take awhile the first few times, soon your child will trust that you are not going anywhere until they are asleep and will feel secure enough to go to sleep quickly. Consider reading a chapter book aloud while your child closes their eyes and listens, singing a few songs, or cuddling in bed together until your child is asleep. For slightly older children, often just sitting by the door silently reading your own book will provide the security needed to fall asleep comfortably. If your child is comfortable falling asleep without you in the room, let them know that you will check in on them in 15 minutes and follow through on your promise.