It’s 2:30 AM……and my child is awake…….What’s a parent to do?
If you have a child like mine, occasionally, you have been awake at 2:30 AM for no good reason.
For parents who immediately go to sleep once their little “angel” (pun intended), this may not present a challenge as big a challenge to be awake (this describes my wife).
Parents of this type may have already gotten at least five hours asleep. To the night owl parents, like myself, I may have just fallen asleep or am still awake. It turns the day into an even longer day.
Fellow Night Owl Parents….there really isn’t anything like seeing your child standing in your bedroom doorway asking for his iPad, for food, to go to the car and/or scripting their character of the month. The dread is realizing you will likely be functioning on less they two hours of sleep begins to set in. You immediately can feel yourself getting anxious or irritated, which only seems to fuel your child’s energy level, which only causes a parent more anxiety or irritation. And the parent-child up all night loop begins……..
What is this you ask?
The parent-child up all night loop is the more anxious or irritated a parent gets, the more activated your child seems to get, which only creates more anxiety or irritation, which only activates your child and so on and so on. If you are like I am, you would walk your child back to the child’s bed and pray to whatever higher power would listen to perform a miracle so that your child would drift off to sleep and you in turn would be back in bed in less time that it takes to cook a three-minute egg.
However, the miracle of your child falling back to sleep is not what most of these types of early morning bring. What is brought forth is a combination of requests, social engagement, wardrobe changes and entertainment selections. It is chaos. But it is chaos that can be managed.
You have choices. Two choices.
Choice one –
Embrace the Chaos. Stay up, satisfy requests, reciprocal social engagement, assist in wardrobe changes and retrieve entertainment selections. Keep your child engaged so that your spouse or other family members may sleep. Keep your child up. Make your child stay awake. No matter how soul crushingly tired you or your child are. Fight the need to sleep. No naps for anyone, not in a car, not in at home, not in a school, not here or there, there will be no napping anywhere.
Keep your child up until the regular bedtime. The child will be cranky, crabby, and sleepy. So long as no violence results, embrace the chaos. Embracing the chaos is also resetting that internal alarm clock your child has. Trust me, this is work, but with a little luck your child’s clock gets reset, or your child remembers being tired when staying up all night and day and decides it isn’t worth it.
Choice two –
Fight the Good Fight. Take your child back to your child’s bedroom. Tuck in your child and then stand outside the bedroom door, because this game of return to bed will likely occur for several hours for several weeks a month for most of the year. I could give you a long-winded explanation in behavioral terms of what these strategies do. Words like over-satiation, following through with an expectation, learning from natural consequences, non-contingent reinforcement would be said. Theories would be offered.
But what does that content and theories do but make you feel inferior. Either strategy is perfectly acceptable. One is not better than the other; one is not preferred by me. It really depends on what I see, how “awake” my son is, how warm or cold he and the house is. His level of consciousness is really the key element. Really awake – time to embrace the chaos. Sleepy eyes and groggy – Fight the Good Fight.
Deciding which strategy to undertake is like deciding which wire to cut on an explosive device. I have employed the Fight the Good Fight strategy only to switch the Embrace the Chaos strategy and vice versa.
Again, it is ok.
As parents you do what you have to do to keep life on a simple plane of existence.
Again, that’s ok.
At 2:45 am or later, you do what keeps everyone on the right side of sanity, but more importantly, what keeps you sane.