Helping Young Children Get a Good Night's Sleep (page 3)
Helping young children to get a sufficient amount of sleep is an important priority because loss of sleep not only has a detrimental impact on their health but also interferes with preschoolers' ability to interact with others. Most of the problems related to the sleep patterns of young children are night waking, failing to settle at night, and calling persistently for parental attention.
Many American parents respond to young children's problems with going to sleep by forcing them to go to bed at a time the parents designate and failing to respond to their cries or pleas to get back up. Although this has become a popular method for dealing with young children's sleep problems, there are far more sensitive and more beneficial ways for dealing with young children's sleep problems. Based on the strong evidence that parental responsiveness is the best predictor of children's attachment, ignoring a child's pleas and cries is not a recommended approach. Although sleep disturbances are common in the United States, they are less common in other cultures, which shows that sleep disturbances of young children might be culturally determined. It is suggested that sleep disturbances of American preschoolers might be related to the ways in which their parents deal with bedtime. Many Asian families, for instance, expect their young children to sleep in their siblings' or parents' bed and do not report any sleep disturbances (Brophy, 2000). Although cosleeping with young children is not an acceptable practice for most Americans, due to their emphasis on independence and individuality, abrupt separation from parents without sufficient preparation for bedtime is not recommended. One of the ways that many parents assist their young children in making the transition to bedtime is through the reading of bedtime stories. This activity helps young children settle down and allows them to experience focused parental attention, which provides the emotional support they need for making the transition of going to bed. Parents' reading of bedtime stories also provides young children with face-to-face reciprocity, which has been found to promote young children's self-regulatory behavior (Feldman et al., 1999). Another way in which parents assist their young children's regulation of sleep patterns is when they establish a regular bedtime for them, especially if they align that bedtime with the children's normal onset of sleep (Ansbaugh & Peck, 1998). In addition to establishing a regular bedtime, and reading stories to assist in the transition to bedtime, it is important for parents to monitor how much time their children are sleeping during the day. Whereas many young children benefit from an afternoon nap, those who sleep for more than a couple of hours during the day are likely to experience difficulty getting to sleep andor sleeping through the night. In these cases, it is recommended this parents alleviate that problem by waking a preschooler earlier from a long daytime nap.
Although children settle down more easily when parents read to them, after parents leave their rooms, preschoolers sometimes imagine that monsters are under their beds or in their closets. These nighttime fears are related to young children's anxiety about being separated from other family members as well as children's active imaginations that cause them to interpret shadows and noises as monsters lurking in the dark. In response to their young children's worries about monsters, parents often attempt to alleviate children's feelings of anxiety by providing them with logical explanations of how there are no monsters and that they should not be afraid. One problem with such a response is that young children are not very logical in their thinking (Piaget & Inhelder, 1969); therefore, reasonable explanations from their parents do little to alleviate the fear of monsters. Another difficulty with that rejoinder is that telling children that they should not be afraid minimizes children's feelings and does not provide them with the comfort they seek. As a reminder, parents of securely attached preschoolers are significantly more warm and accepting as well as less controlling of their young children in comparison to parents of insecurely attached preschoolers (Barnett et al., 1998).
© ______ 2009, Merrill, an imprint of Pearson Education Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved. The reproduction, duplication, or distribution of this material by any means including but not limited to email and blogs is strictly prohibited without the explicit permission of the publisher.
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