School age children, just like babies, can demonstrate a wide range of sleep difficulties, including settling problems, waking up during the night, nightmares and night fears. In most cases, to solve these problems you need to work with your child to help them to go off to sleep happily and alone at the beginning of the night. It is quite normal for all of us to wake several times during the night. If your child has you sitting next to them as they fall asleep, then they will need to get you back to act as a sleep prompt when they wake up later.
Do not underestimate the value of a wonderfully consistent bedtime routine, even with an older child. To encourage independent settling, you should invest time popping in and out of the bedroom several times once your child is in bed. Each time you go in the room you should praise them. This will reassure your child that you are close by and help them to feel good about falling asleep alone.
In the morning, if they have fallen asleep alone and stayed in bed all night you should offer lots of warm praise. All children want their parents’ approval, even if they seem like they don’t care! Your positive attitude will help your child to learn new sleep skills which will last.
Be sensitive to the possible stresses that your child is under. These can include worries around family, school and friendships. Make time to talk to your child and really listen, no matter how anxious or busy you are. This is best done early in the day rather than close to bed time.
Discourage your child from doing homework very close to bed time and avoid fizzy drinks and sweets. Encourage your child to have a supper which is rich in carbohydrates, and a milky drink is ideal just before bed.
Don’t ever send your child to her bedroom as a punishment.