Parenting a young child comes with its own set of challenges. And it happens that we no longer know where to turn to find answers to these little daily worries. La Presse explores an issue that affects the well-being of children with the help of a specialist. Today: We answer questions from parents about naps and bedtime for under-5s.
Sleep is – unsurprisingly – the “number one” reason for consultation during early childhood, says psychoeducator Mélanie Bilodeau, who is also the author of the books Be the expert of your toddler and Be the expert of your baby.
Until the age of 10, a child’s sleep will go through a lot of variation before it begins to resemble that of an adult; but from childhood, we can see that there are little sleepers, late risers or night owls, she notes. “Each child has their own biological rhythm,” says Mélanie Bilodeau.
Jonathan is the father of a 2.5 year old daughter. “Since he was born, sleep has always been an issue,” he wrote to us. But the real challenge for her parents is the nap, since the only way for her to fall asleep on weekends is by car.
“It could well be that we have created a habit,” says Mélanie Bilodeau. But is it really that bad if the child is sleeping? There is a problem when the parent says, “It’s starting to wear me down, I don’t feel like going for car rides every Saturday anymore.” »
If so, why not take a trip to the park? suggests the psychoeducator. “She might fall asleep in her stroller or in her sleigh in the winter. But we’re not going to impose an hour’s nap on her because it generates stress and protest. »
Rather than “fighting” for the nap, she believes it would be more beneficial to let go, even if it means having a moment of calm at home where everyone is glued to the couch or the big bed. “We close our eyes, we relax, we breathe, we tell a story… If we fall asleep, great; if you don’t fall asleep, it’s not dramatic either. It’s just two days a week, so having fun is a game-changer. »
How many hours should a child sleep per day? This is the question one mother asked us to find out about the variations that occur around the age of 4 or 5, while two mothers wrote to us because they were worried that their 20 month old son would not sleeps only seven hours a night, in addition to his afternoon nap.
No matter the age of the child, Mélanie Bilodeau advises parents not to dwell on the numbers. “It becomes extremely anxiety-provoking and you disconnect from the real needs of the child. It’s like taking a nap: when do you stop taking it? There are children who, at 3 and a half years old, no longer need it and function very well, while there are those who, at the start of kindergarten, still need it in the afternoon. . »
Instead, the psychoeducator advises observing the child; is he more irritable than when he sleeps more? Is he willing to learn? And in the evening, watch for signs of fatigue – he stares into space, he yawns, he rubs his eyes – so as not to miss “his window of sleep”.
“Sleep is a bit like a passing train. If you missed it, you have to wait for the next one,” explains Mélanie Bilodeau. And the next one may arrive an hour or two later, depending on the age of the child.
“Teaching the train analogy to kids works so well because for sure if you tell them, ‘Go to bed,’ they very rarely get excited about going to bed. Instead of telling them, “Oh, I think you’re getting tired” – all the kids say no, it’s consistent! – you could say, “You rub your eyes, you yawn, it could be a passing train.” It leads children to develop mindfulness and the idea that sleep is something pleasant, which feels good, rather than insisting on the fact that you have to go to bed. »
And what we must not forget is that sleep remains a neurophysiological process over which the parent has no power, underlines Mélanie Bilodeau; all he can do is accompany the child by meeting his emotional needs during the period of falling asleep and nocturnal awakenings.
Concerned about your child’s well-being or development? Write to our journalist, we will try to answer it with the help of an expert.