Toddler anxiety at bedtime: What is it and how to deal
Parents of toddlers often have to face a new challenge when it comes to bedtime. First, there’s the usual routine of getting everyone ready for bed, bouncing them up and down like a kangaroo before putting them in their cribs, and then when it’s time to say “goodnight!” Then, your kids start their tears and think you’re going to leave them in the dark. The classic way to end this stage is with a kiss on the cheek and a reassuring “I’m right down the hall.” But sometimes, that gentle reassurance isn’t enough to get your child to fall asleep, and they may keep you up while you’re trying to get them to go down.
What is toddler anxiety at bedtime?
Toddler anxiety at bedtime is a relatively new term, given to a collection of nighttime behaviors that are all too common among toddlers. It’s defined as increased levels of fear and agitation when parents leave the child alone in their bedroom to fall asleep or when parents are not within close proximity during the evening. In general, it’s best described as elevated night-waking, crying, and screaming when separation from the parent occurs before bedtime.
Anxiety in toddlers is often confused with separation anxiety because it can be associated with similar symptoms. Separation anxiety refers to a disorder where children show an excessive fear of being away from home or away from their primary caregiver(s). Toddler anxiety is often similar to separation anxiety and may even precede it; however, they are different conditions. Bedtime anxieties and nighttime fears are common in healthy children as a regular part of development.
How to deal with toddler anxiety at bedtime
We’re all on the same page: toddler bedtime is hard.
But bedtime can be even more challenging for you both when your toddler struggles with anxiety. First, it’s important to remember that anxiety is a normal part of your child’s development and often manifests as separation anxiety. When toddlers fear being away from their parents, it can make putting them to bed pretty much impossible.
Here are some essential tips for handling toddler anxiety at bedtime:
Don’t give in to the demands of an anxious toddler—if you do it once, they’ll think this type of behavior will always work!
Don’t stay in the room until they fall asleep—especially if you’ve been helping them get ready for sleep. It’s great to help your tiny person get ready for sleep, but if they don’t see you leave, they may become confused and upset later that night when they wake up alone in their own room. And after all your time getting them ready! Yikes!
Don’t let them sleep with you... just don’t do it! If you start co-sleeping with a baby or toddler who is scared to be alone at night, it’s difficult (but not impossible!) to eventually transition back into their own bed again in the future. Co-sleeping can also impact other aspects of parenting, including breastfeeding and leaving the house without them crying because they want mommy/daddy instead of grandma or whoever else might be watching them during those times when we just need five minutes alone without our precious little ones attached at our hip (or boob).
Toddler bedtime can be challenging, but there are ways to help your toddler sleep better.
Try to stick to a bedtime routine. When possible, try to stick to a bedtime routine that fits your child’s needs and schedule. This can help give your toddler structure and consistency.
Make sure your child is getting plenty of sleep. Sleep is essential for children’s physical, mental, emotional, and behavioral health. As kids grow and develop, they require more sleep than adults do.
You can use a night light for your child. Night lights help create a sense of safety by making it easier for kids to see their surroundings without needing adult intervention as much.
Try a reward system for good behavior at bedtime: For toddlers who are still learning bedtime rules such as staying in bed or not getting out of the crib, you can use positive reinforcement to encourage good behavior like setting up a sticker chart or giving them rewards when they follow the rules.
As parents, we all know that bedtime is an essential part of the day. It’s the time for our little ones to settle down and get their rest so they can start their adventure all over again tomorrow. But for parents, that is our time to regather our patience, get our rest, and have a little me time. Hopefully, the information and tips above set you on the right course to gain some insight into your toddler’s mind at bedtime.
If you need help battling bedtime anxiety contact The Slumber Academy today!