Professionals who work with the parents of children with attention issues have all heard this story.
Do you have a friend or family who has a child with attention issues who is struggling with their child’s sleep schedule? They tell you about the night before when they worked with their child to finish every step of their sleep routine. They brushed their teeth, perhaps meditated together. And just as it was time to turn out the lights, the parent gave in to ten more minutes of story time. And then another five minutes for water. And another two minutes of hugs.
It may be immediately obvious to you why the sleep routine isn’t helping the child focus, but it can take more to explain to the parent the challenges their current routine is creating.
While it might be impossible to control how a parent will implement a sleep schedule for their child with focus issues, there are a host of ways to help coach them. With a few techniques, you can easily help them understand the importance of a regular sleep schedule. Here are some of the most successful methods we’ve found.
Give Permission to Be the Tough Parent on Sleep
Most parents just want their kids to like them. They don’t want to be tough all the time. They feel guilty turning down another bedtime story with their child, knowing it won’t be an option forever. As a professional working with these parents, it’s important to encourage them (and even give them permission) to be a strict parent when it comes to sleep.
Their child faces so many obstacles because of their attention issues — the last thing the child needs is for their own parent to add to their burden. Helping the parent see how strict sleep routines help their child succeed is usually the only thing they need to be more consistent. Provide parents with talking points to let their child down easy when they ask for ten more minutes. Give them encouraging reminders that will help them say no on days they feel extra guilty. Work with them until they completely understand how a consistent sleep schedule can help.
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Provide Ways to Use Mornings for Family Bonding
A strict sleep schedule allows for more energy in the morning, even before school. If you’re working with a parent who doesn’t want to sacrifice family bonding time for sleep, help them create a morning routine that includes fun activities for the family to do together.
Switching story time from before bed to first thing in the morning allows a child to wake up gradually and engage their imagination immediately. They wake up with a purpose and excited to have an extra play time before school. Plus a child is much more likely to go to sleep if they anticipate the morning’s activities.
Coach parents to reframe their morning routines to ease the guilt of a strict bedtime. It will also set their children up for success in school and other after-school activities, which is everyone’s top priority.
Help Track Results of a Routine Sleep Schedule
Everyone responds well to positive reinforcements. There is no stronger reason to commit to a habit than seeing the benefits. If you work with a parent who struggles to understand the importance of a sleep schedule for their child with attention issues, encourage a daily journal. Daily charts of sleep and the child’s mood offer a simple, obvious way to see how quality sleep affects their child. It will also highlight the different ways the day gets harder for their child when a strict schedule isn’t enforced.
A color chart inspired by bullet journal mood trackers is an easy solution that most parents find successful. You can also encourage parents to brainstorm their own goals to track beyond their child’s mood. With goals they’ve set for themselves or their children, parents will be more diligent with the rules and their tracking.
Introduce them to More Parents
Navigating the world with a child who has attention issues is a unique experience. When anxiety flares up and their child starts to behave differently, parents feel like they’re the only ones dealing with it. Often the best thing to do as a professional is to introduce the parents to others who are going through a similar experience. Helping them create a community of resources and people to lean on is an invaluable tool when they fall out of their routine. If you don’t happen to know other parents with children struggling with focus, encourage them to reach out to their school or community organizations. Sometimes all people need is another person to understand their struggle.
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