Toddler Sleep Q&A |Sleep problems in toddlers, scared of being alone, trouble falling asleep
I’m answering some of the most common questions I get from my audience and clients about sleep problems in toddlers and even bigger kids. If you want to know more about kids who struggle being left alone in their room at bedtime, whether health insurance covers sleep training services, and why it takes some kids forever to fall asleep at night, keep reading!
If you have questions or struggles of your own about kids and sleep, send me a DM over on Instagram @AwesomeLittleSleepers and get your questions answered by me.
>>Watch this blog on my Awesome Little Sleepers YouTube channel! 👇
My 3-year-old child is scared of being alone, especially at bedtime.
Getting clingy at bedtime is pretty common with toddlers. However, if you've got a kiddo who struggles playing independently or spending time away from you even during the day, I recommend you work on that daytime independence before you even start working on bedtime.
Here are a few ways you can do just that!
#1 Never sneak out. If your kid struggles with being dropped off at daycare or preschool or with a babysitter, it might seem easier to distract them with an activity and sneak out to avoid the drama and tears.
But it's not the right approach. If your child is scared of being alone, sneaking out can make them even more clingy if they think you’re about to disappear.
The best thing to do is prep them ahead of time for the situation.
Say, “Mommy's going to drop you off at school with your teacher and you're going to have a super-fun day. You're going to play with all of your friends, and then I'll be back to pick you up in a few hours.”
Then let your child know when you're leaving. Say goodbye, keep it brief, and leave.
#2 Keep your word. When you go back to pick them up, let them know that even though you leave, you always come back. This helps them start to realize that they can have a fun day without you and you’ll always come back to pick them up.
You can even repeat a short mantra, something like, “Mommy always comes back”, that you can say when you drop them off and when you pick them up, so it becomes something they start to internalize and repeat to themselves. This really helps to build our kids’ independence and self-reliance, which is exactly what we want.
#2 Catch them being good. Practice at home during the day, especially if you have a kid who struggles to even let you go to the bathroom by yourself.
Do this by starting an activity with them. Maybe you're building some Legos or you're working on a puzzle and your child's engaged in the activity.
Then say, “Mommy's gonna run to the bathroom real quick. I'll be right back.” Leave the room for a minute (or even less than a minute if you think that's all they can tolerate). When you come back, remind them how well they did without you.
This practice just reinforces that they can be in a room without you and everything's going to be okay. Gradually, you can extend the time that you leave them to play independently.
Does health insurance cover sleep training?
In some countries like Canada and Australia, traditional health insurance may cover the cost of sleep training, but unfortunately, in America, it does not. Good news though - many HSA or FSA plans will cover the cost of a course like my sleep training course, Sleep Tight Without a Fight.
And the best part of using your HSA or FSA funds is that you're using pre-tax dollars. You may need to go ahead and prepay for sleep training, then submit a receipt for reimbursement, so check with your plan administrator first, or check out this blog for more details.
My five-year-old is the queen of keeping herself awake even if we have lights out by 7:45pm. Why?
The first thing to look at is what's happening after lights out.
I'm going to assume, for the sake of this question, that when you say lights out you mean you said your good nights, you turn out the lights, and you leave the room, and then she spends a long time awake.
What happens once you’re out of the room? Is she running out of her room a million times, asking for all the "one-mores" (one more hug, book, potty break, etc.)?
Are you walking her back to her room over and over?
Maybe somebody loses their temper - whether it’s the child or the parent.
Maybe there’s a lot of negotiation where you say, “Okay, I'll get you some more water as long as you promise not to come out of your room again.”
These are the most common scenarios that I hear about when parents say it takes their kids a long time to fall asleep after lights out.
If this is what's going on, the reason your little one is still awake is because there's just way too much interaction in that evening period after lights out. She's getting way too much attention for her behavior, even if it's negative attention.
You can take my free toddler sleep masterclass to learn how to eliminate all the back and forth so she starts to learn that lights out means lights out.
If none of this applies and she isn't coming out of her room after bedtime, but you say goodnight, turn out the lights, and leave the room but she's just laying down, rolling around, having a tough time settling and falling asleep, then it's more likely that you're putting her to bed a little too late.
You can check out this video to learn more about that!
Remember, if you’ve got a sleep question, drop me a DM on Instagram and I’ll answer it in an upcoming episode.