Stress and general anxiety related to a divorce and subsequently having to sleep in two different households are big reasons that a child struggles to fall asleep or stay asleep. So, what can parents do to help their child who is have problems falling asleep, or staying asleep, in two households? First, both parents need to understand the three primary factors that come into play to create or worsen the stress and anxiety their kids are having: .
- Different Sleep Environments
- Missing the other parent at bedtime
- Changing routines
Different Sleep Environments:
So, what should coparents consider doing when setting up a sleep environment in their homes? First, they should consider the sleep environment and tools that the child is used to, pre-divorce, and make the two rooms consistent with each other, post-divorce. This includes things such as:.
- Whether the room is dark, or light.
- The presence of a night light or sound machine.
- If a wake-up clock is used.
- Certain routine books for bedtime
- The child’s use of a lovey, pacifier or blanket
Does that mean coparents have to buy two of everything? Not necessarily. For some items, two of each can be purchased, such an extra lovey, similar night light, etc. If the parents need to bring some items back and forth, they should have a designated ”sleep bag” to take from home to home. It is important to check the “sleep bag” at pick-up and at drop-off to make sure everything is included. We don’t want to realize at bedtime that the lovey is not there!
Missing The Other Parent At Bedtime:
Bedtime is often a time when children miss the other parent. If that happens often, coparents can implement some tools to help child feel connected to other parent:
Many times, having the child call other parent at a certain time of the evening can help enforce that connection. However, for some children talking to the parent close to bedtime can make it worse. If that’s the case, a regular call to the other parent can be in the morning or even another time of the day.
Putting up a collage of photos on the wall next to their bed, creating a book with pictures of parents and other family member, recording the other parent’s voice reading a favorite book or having the child write a note for other parent each day can also relieve the anxiety of being without that parent.
Keeping Similar Sleeping Routines:
There are some definite things that both households can agree on when addressing ways to keep similar routines. Ideally, one is to keep wake-up time, naps and bedtime around the same time in each home. If the parents have trouble coming to an agreement, you can talk to your pediatrician for sample schedules. Often, when the recommendation is provided from professional it is more easily accepted by both parents.
Additionally, if a child uses a pacifier or lovey, let them use it at both homes. You also need to find common ground when to make big changes such as eliminating the pacifier, potty training and allowing, or not, a phone in the bedroom. Using google sheet to share schedules and log events can help in making these decisions.
However, while having the a similar routine is great, they don’t necessarily have to be identical, even when the coparents generally agree. There are reasons that routines can be different in different homes. Things like sleep space and room sharing may be necessary, but in these cases, a parent should stay consistent with their own routine in their home.
When Parents Are Not On Same Page:
If parents manage their child’s sleep fairly differently, a parent is not bound to doing the same as what other parent does and can still implement different sleep habits in their home.
For example, one parent wants to room share and the other parent does not. We can help child learn to sleep in their own room at one parent, even if they will continue to room share with other parent.
- At first, expect some resistance when your child comes back, but the more you are consistent at your home and the longer you’ve been having these habits, the more seamless it will become.
- Kids are smart and adaptable. They understand that different places have different rules and expectations. Example: different rules and expectations between daycare/school and home.
Non-routine times, like holidays, vacations or long weekends, can obviously mean different routines and environments, here are some tips to get the child’s schedule back on track after the holidays – or a vacation:
- If you got in the habit of waking up later and going to bed later and you need to shift the schedule earlier, start with waking them up earlier in the morning.
- Give yourself extra time to do the routine, so start earlier than you think you need.
- Use a timer to indicate when it’s time to start bedtime routine.
While it may be fine to have a different schedule on a weekend evening, remember to prioritize earlier bedtime if there is school the next day.
We know how stressful it can be for parents when they have a child who is struggling to adapt to two households. If you would benefit from a referral to a professional who can help, we are here to help; call us today at (503) 227-0200 and we can you get connected via our extensive referral network system.