When children are experiencing anxiety over their parents’ separation or divorce, they often have trouble sleeping. Maybe they have difficulty falling asleep, or perhaps they wake up repeatedly during the night.
When children are worried about their future and the future of their family, they may lie awake for hours. If they’re adjusting to sleeping in a new home (or two new homes if both parents have moved out of the family house), their insomnia can be particularly bad.
Of course, children need a good night’s sleep to stay healthy and to remain alert at school. Lack of sleep can also cause behavioral issues.
If your child is having trouble sleeping, it’s essential for you and your co-parent to work together to help them, even if it means having more contact with each other than you’d prefer. Let’s look at some sleep strategies that can help you improve your child’s ability to get a good night’s sleep.
Keep them on a routine
It’s important that a child’s bedtime and routine be the same in both of your homes — or as similar as possible. Winding down before bedtime can be helpful. Try to keep things quiet as bedtime approaches. If it helps them to talk to both parents, make sure they can talk with your co-parent on the phone or via video chat. That might include a bedtime story or just a brief “Good night.”
Help them feel safe
If your child is nervous about sleeping in a new home, find out what’s frightening them. Provide them with as much assurance as you can. If you’re living in an apartment or condo where they’re hearing neighbors or traffic outside, assure them that the home is safe. Show them the locks and security system if you have one. Make sure they know where you are if they need you.
Don’t keep bad habits for long
If you’ve started letting your child sleep with you, remember that this should not be a long-term solution. Find other things that can help your child self-comfort, like their favorite stuffed animal or a superhero night light.
If you and your co-parent are having trouble getting on the same page with your child’s bedtime and sleep routine, you might consider including it in your parenting plan. Talk to your attorney about how best to do that.