Dr. Courtney Knapp

Child & Adolescent Psychologist Serving Orange County, California

Sleep Struggles

Empty Bed

So many parents, new and seasoned, have dealt with bedtime or middle of the night crying from their child at least once and for some this is an ongoing struggle. There is an abundance of advice on how to help children sleep and every family needs to choose what feels right for them. I came across this article and think the approach is respectful of the child’s needs and also lends itself to eventual independent sleep.

The approach is based on the idea that children cry in order to offload negative feelings that have built up during the day and unlike adults children are still good at doing this if we allow them the time and space to do so without becoming overwhelmed ourselves. This is easier said than done especially in the middle of the night. So the first step would be to allow a child to cry during the day while one listens and is supportive. This may decrease nighttime crying but if nighttime crying still happens (which it likely will) then do the same at night….listen to the crying in a supportive way. To do this the article points out that one would reflect the feelings “I hear you are upset” and then gently touch the child to offer physical comfort without picking the child up. If the crying intensifies then one can pick the child up and cuddle with them until they are ready to be put down. Again this is just one method amongst many but I found it to be an intriguing view on why nighttime crying happens and how to approach it.

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