I had the pleasure of speaking at the CHADD San Fernando Valley Parent Support Group on Wednesday, February 28, held at Bridges Academy. This group is warm, lovely, inclusive, and a wonderful resource for parents of children who are challenged with ADD/ADHD. For more information about CHADD, visit chadd.org
Below are the strategies and tips I shared for helping children, both with ADHD and neurotypical, to develop a calm mindset during a very challenging time of the day: the bedtime routine.
Bedtime Routines: Many children are completely wound up at the end of the day. Research shows that kids with ADHD are four times as likely to have trouble with falling asleep and staying in bed all night. One reason for this behavior is that the region of the brain that regulates attention also regulates sleep. But a reliable and consistent routine will help your child get in the right mindset for sleep.
#1) Make sure that your child has some form of physical activity every day. Being active places healthy physical stress on the body which in turn increases the body’s need for sleep.
#2) Plan for bedtime and start your routine early enough so your child can get enough sleep. The National Sleep Foundation offers guidelines for how much sleep the average child should get, based on their age. For example, 6-13 year olds need 9 to 11 hours of sleep and 14-17 year olds need 8-10 hours of sleep. But every child is unique. Some kids with ADHD may just need less sleep. So if that is the case, starting the bedtime routine too early may just create more anxiety from lying in bed and waiting to fall asleep. A good strategy is to have the same bedtime every night – even on weekends – into order for your child to gain the benefit of the routine.
#3) Make decisions for the next day. Have your child choose their clothes for the next day, pack up their backpack, gather all necessary items needed for after school activities. Place everything that is needed for the next morning right in front of the front door and ready to be grabbed on the way out of the house.
#4) Have your child take an evening bath or shower. It can be very relaxing and calming.
#5) Some kids may like a bedtime snack. A protein-rich snack can be an efficient get-to-sleep aid. Try scrambled eggs, a bowl of oatmeal, a cup of soup or anything comforting for your child.
#6) Read and snuggle!
#7) Teach your child relaxation techniques such as deep breathing, listening to soothing music, or aromatherapy.
#8) Create a sweet and personal good-night routine. This not only assures your child that he or she is loved and an important person in the family, it will signal his or her brain that it is time to go to sleep. For example, a hug and “I love you to the moon and back, sleep tight!” – and then you leave the room.
#9) Some of you may be saying, “this all sounds well and good but my child refuses to stay in bed!” I understand! Many kids with ADHD or anxiety find that their anxiety ramps up at bedtime. Some kids will go to sleep but then they are up an hour later, or they simply refuse to go to sleep. You may want to try a behavioral approach. Make a rule: child stays in bed from 9pm – 6am. If your child gets up, calmly and with no chit-chat, remind her that it is time to go to sleep and walk her back to bed. You can use a reward system such as stickers or points for staying in bed.
I hope you found these strategies helpful. If you would like to talk more about creating a bedtime routine for your child, or any other challenging parenting issue you are facing, please give me a call or send me an email at email@example.com. I look forward to speaking with you!