So many families I've worked with recently are trying to figure this parenting thing out all while balancing their full-time jobs with both spouses now working from home. I know first-hand how difficult it can be to navigate keeping up a household while dad is unexpectedly working out of his closet to find some quiet to take a call. For many of us, trying to stay afloat financially has been a struggle too because in some way or another, Covid has taken a toll on all of us. All of these situations are so, so hard. Working, managing finances, worrying about health, and raising children is already difficult, but add being isolated to the home with the same few people for a big portion of the last 18 months is more like pull-your-hair-out hard!
Now that things are starting to open back up, we’re facing all the challenges of reintegrating back into society, and unfortunately, we likely won’t see all the long-term effects for quite some time. I’m seeing it daily - both with my clients and with the students in the classroom where I teach.
Many born over the last 18 months have never really left the house to go on simple errands like the grocery store, let around being able to freely play around with other children! Separation anxiety for infants and toddlers seems to be at an all-time high, as little ones have really never known anyone other than mom or dad as caregivers. In toddlers, challenging behaviors have been a hot topic, and I’m seeing a lot more fear and anxiety in a lot of my adolescent clients in the aftermath of this pandemic. The inconsistency in everyone’s routines due to the disruptions that occur with illnesses, exposures, subsequent quarantines, closures, and you name it clearly affect our day-to-day lives.
It's inarguable that the COVID-19 crisis has taken a lot out of us, but it doesn’t have to take your kiddos' sleep too! Whether your children are babies, toddlers, school-aged, or adolescents, here are my top tips for maintaining great sleep (even in, or after a pandemic)!
- Try to follow age-appropriate wake times vs tired signs. Even though your baby may be fussing after only being up for an hour, it doesn’t always mean they are tired!! Babies cry as a form of communication, and that could mean that they are hungry, tired, or even bored! Watching the clock for age-appropriate wake times could be the key to getting that long nap you’re aiming for! Check out my Instagram @sleepwise_withmelina for more specific tips on wake times for specific ages!
- Watch the screen time. Not only does this impact sleep, but it negatively impacts behavior too. Avoid TV, phones, or any kind of screens at least an hour before bed. Blue light blocks the release of melatonin, a natural secreting hormone that tells our bodies it’s time to sleep, so it is important to allow that to do its job. Sleepfoundation.org says that “Children have larger pupils than adults, putting them at greater risk for being more sensitive to blue light.” Not all screen time exposure is a negative thing, but we do want to focus more on quality vs. quantity and be very intentional about when our children are experiencing screens.
- Physical Exertion. Being at home, especially during the lockdown portion of this process, was - in simple terms, boring for most children. We ran out of things to do more quickly! Some couldn’t even get outdoors to get fresh air, as national and local parks were closed. Physical play is extremely important for quality sleep for toddlers and young children. When little ones do not have the opportunity to expend enough energy, you will likely see skipped naps or short naps, and then you end up with a cranky or overtired kiddo as it happens repeatedly. Overtiredness impacts sleep negatively too! Don't underestimate the power of 30 to 60 minutes of active play that will really wear children out physically both morning and afternoon.
- BONUS Tip! Ditch the Sleep Props - the BIGGEST help to consolidate sleep overnight & for extending daytime naps is going to be to establish independent sleep skills. Ensuring your baby doesn't rely on anything external (pacifier, rocking, holding, feeding, etc) to fall asleep, will allow them to stay asleep and return to sleep upon waking independently.
Although many of us wish parenting had an explicit manual, our children don’t come with step-by-step directions, which is why it’s SO important to find your village! Finding your village these days can be an exhausting task, but it is worth the effort. I’m so thankful for the FWMOM community because even virtually, they have always shown up! We can truly encourage one another and live life together. And it's okay to state the obvious too: multiples are HARD, y’all! Find your village, support them, love them well, and let them love on you too!
Melina Moses is a Certified Pediatric Sleep Consultant with Sleep Wise Consulting. She currently lives in Oklahoma City with her husband Wes, twins McKenzie and Jaxon, and her daughter Madelyn. To schedule a consulation with Melina, please visit https://www.sleepwiseconsulting.com/consultants/melina-moses/ or email her at firstname.lastname@example.org
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