First and foremost - have a consistent and predictable bedtime routine that happens at the same time every night. Children need routine. It feels safe. Be sure this includes a slow winding down of energetic activity. Good sleep hygiene is a gift you are giving your child that will pay handsome dividends for them later in life. (For Love and Logic info click here.)
- Include lots of choice in the pre-bedtime routine to meet control needs. (Examples: Do you want to brush your teeth in mommy's bathroom or yours? Covers up or down? Night light on or off? )
- Before the big day, start talking about what it means to sleep in a "big-girl" or "big-boy" bed. "You get blankets and pillows and can get up by yourself if you have to go to the bathroom." or "When you are big enough to stay in bed at bedtime you get to sleep in a big bed."
- Get a safety rail (Standers 5000 Bed Rail Advanta (Google Affiliate Ad)) for the sides of the new bed so it feels safe like the crib did.
- Establish a "stay in bed when it's bedtime" rule and stick to it firmly. One Dad sleeps by the bed on the floor for the first few nights and firmly without emotion or eye contact reminds the child to get back under the covers if they start to get out.
- Some parents simply walk the child back to their room without conversation and again without emotion or eye contact. It can take 45 minutes or more the first night but night 2 is easier and by night 3 or 4 the problem is solved. Consistency is key.
- One parent with multiple bedrooms to monitor, placed a rocking chair in the hall and established the pattern of reading there for 30 minutes after tuck-in time. She was right there to catch them if they got out of bed and and firmly without emotion or eye contact reminded the child to get back under the covers or walked them back to bed.
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A Great Resource: Healthy Sleep Habits, Happy Child: A Step-By-Step Program for a Good N (Google Affiliate Ad) by Marc Weissbluth, M.D.