Children can experience sleep problems for any number of reasons. Anxiety and changes in their routine are two of those. If their parents have separated and are divorcing or considering divorce, they’re likely experiencing both of those things.
Sleep problems — either not being able to fall or stay asleep or sleeping too much — are not uncommon for children whose parents are no longer together. They may also regress to behavior that parents thought they’d outgrown, like bed-wetting, being afraid of monsters under the bed or sucking their thumbs.
All of this is a response to their world being turned upside down and the fear of what’s going to happen to them and their families. Even when parents work hard to reassure their kids that everything will be fine, they can still feel anxious, frightened and depressed.
If your child is having trouble sleeping or experiencing other sleep-related issues, one of the most important things parents can do is maintain a consistent bedtime and routine in both parents’ homes. This might be more difficult if one parent only has the child on the weekends when they don’t have to go to bed or get up as early. However, they may need that consistency regardless of the day of the week.
It’s also a good idea to practice the same routines before bed. If you have a young child who likes to be read a bedtime story, make sure you both do that. If they sleep with a favorite toy or night light, have those in both homes. If they have a favorite alarm or other morning ritual, provide them in both homes.
This will take some cooperation in the initial period after your break-up when you and your spouse might not be very fond of one another. However, it’s essential to your child’s well-being. If you aren’t communicating well face-to-face or via text, maybe you can create a shared online sleep journal for your child. Your attorney may have other suggestions.
It can be tempting to blame your co-parent for your child’s sleeping problems. However, it’s up to both of you to help resolve them.