Do you feel like your children experience anxiety around bedtime? This could come in the form of being scared, delaying sleep, trying to refuse the bedtime routine, and complaining of being scared, among others.
Anxiety always has an underlying root so it’s important to speak with your Doctor to make sure nothing medical is perpetuating those feelings. If nothing medical is going on, I encourage parents to shift the bedtime routine a bit to include some activities that can really help a child relax and shift their focus.
This month’s Free Tip Tuesdays will focus on using mantras, meditation and breathing techniques that can help BOTH you and your child relax before bed. This is a great way to bond with your child and engage in these activities yourself, it’s relaxation for everyone!
Today we will focus on step 1, which is the family meeting and using mantras. The following months will cover mediation and deep breathing, it’s important to introduce just one of these tools at a time so the child doesn’t become confused or overwhelmed and can really master each one.
Family meetings are a great thing, I use them frequently with clients and it’s the best way to get everyone on the same page and onboard with any changes that are going to be made. It not only helps the kids feel included but it also allows their voice to be heard and for them to understand what is happening and why.
This family meeting will cover:
- Validation– Talk about your child’s anxiety, hear them out and then validate how they feel. That can be as simple as telling them “I hear you, I hear you are saying…” Help them understand that their feelings are normal and that you have experienced similar thoughts and feelings, normalize it for them.
- Get on the same page – before the meeting discuss what changes will be made and who will be implementing those changes each night. It could be that the whole family will participate in the mantras, mediation and deep breathing each night. Or, based on schedules etc., it could be that some nights Mom will implement and other nights Dad will take over. It can be flexible but the goal is to be on the same page so the changes don’t add any more stress or anxiety.
- Discuss the changes – once you’ve normalized your child’s feelings, you can then talk about some things that you have done or want to try with them to help them relax before bedtime. The first addition will be using a mantra.
- Introducing a mantra – to start, have everyone use OM. This deep sound, which can be translated to literally mean the liberation of the mind, can be an effective chant. Have them practice taking a deep breath in and on the exhale, chant OMMMMMMM. For smaller children, start with just 30 seconds. Explain to them that when they feel anxious or overwhelmed (use their vernacular here, however they describe the feeling when they can’t sleep) to use this tool, chanting OM.
- Finish the bedtime routine per usual – the OM might fit in well after pjs are put on and teeth are brushed. Then, if it’s typical to read a book or engage in some pre-sleep cuddling, do that, finish your routine like you usually do.
- Practice, practice, practice – remember that these tools are only effective with consistent practice. If nothing else, adding in this new 30 seconds can help re-set their default mental bedtime settings. Interrupting their usual train of thought can be helpful in breaking the anxiety thought pattern too.
The above routine will work well for children of all ages and for older children who can handle starting out with more than just OM, you can try the gayatri mantra.