Epi #95. Goodnight, Not Goodbye: Handling Separation Anxiety at BedtimeJan 16, 2024
If your New Year's resolution is to transform bedtime from chaos to calm, you're in the right place.
As a parenting coach, I've seen it all: the two-hour bedtime marathons, the tears, and the desperation for just one peaceful night. But often, these struggles stem from one root issue: bedtime separation anxiety.
Today, let's unravel how to solve bedtime separation anxiety so going to sleep is a lot smoother and happier.
Section 1: Unpacking Bedtime Separation Anxiety
Bedtime separation anxiety isn't just a phase; it's a real fear of being apart from caregivers.
It might not always come in the form of a clear verbal expression from your child. Instead, it manifests as bedtime tantrums, stalling, or that heartbreaking cry as you step out of the room.
These behaviors aren't acts of defiance; they're cries for comfort and assurance.
Let's remember, separation anxiety doesn't exclusively belong to the realm of toddlers; it can strike at any age, as I personally experienced at 9 years old.
Understanding the root – the fear of separation – is our first step toward addressing bedtime woes.
Section 2: Where We Go Wrong: Common Bedtime Mistakes
Many of us, in an attempt to quell the bedtime rebellion, inadvertently focus on stopping the behavior rather than understanding the need behind it.
My own grandmother made this mistake with me, using threats and frustration, which only amplified my anxiety.
Abuelita told me things like, "Marcela, it's past your bedtime, what are you doing awake?," or "If you don't go to bed right now I will tell your mom and she is not going to like it that you are not listening."
That tactic far from solving my bedtime separation anxiety gave me a lot more anxiety and I found it harder to fall asleep.
In contrast, when my mother returned and addressed my need for reassurance and connection, my anxiety began to dissipate.
It's a powerful lesson: addressing the need directly is far more effective than trying to suppress the behavior.
Section 3: Shifting Focus: Connection Over Correction
The traditional approach emphasizes separation - "It's bedtime; stay in bed." But what if we flip the script? Instead of highlighting the separation, focus on maintaining a sense of connection.
My mother's gentle reassurance, "This is goodnight, not goodbye," transformed my anxiety into comfort.
It's about ensuring your child that they're not alone, that their feelings are valid, and that you're always there for them. Such reassurances don't mean you must be physically present at all times; it's about emotional availability and consistency.
When children feel that bedtime is not a barrier for getting connection, they eventually relax about it and don't fight it anymore, sleep independence is built in sleep dependence, and this applies for all ages, not just babies.
There is a powerful and easy-to-apply method to build independent sleep skills so children don't depend on us to sleep.
You might find yourself in this situation if you want to end co-sleeping, but it's been a struggle. Or maybe you breastfeed your toddler and don't know how to build this sleep independence when your child nurses to sleep and wakes up in the middle of the night to nurse.
If this is you, our Transform Bedtime from Chaos to Calm workshop taught by our Sleep HIC Coach contains all those answers and the system for easier bedtimes, no matter your circumstances.
You and your child deserve easier bedtimes and a full night of sleep this year 🙂.
Section 4: Practical Steps to Ease Bedtime Anxiety
To make bedtime smoother, anticipate and address separation anxiety well before the night routine starts.
Discuss fears and plan out comforting strategies together.
Perhaps it's a special signal, a nightlight, or a shared ritual that bridges the gap of separation. Remember, the goal is not to eliminate the need for comfort but to fulfill it in a way that promotes independence and security.
As we wrap up, let's remember the importance of understanding and addressing the real needs behind bedtime struggles.
By focusing on connection and reassurance rather than strict separation, we pave the way for more peaceful nights.
If you're ready to dive deeper into this topic or seeking personalized guidance, don't hesitate to listen to our full podcast episode or book a free Parenting Assessment Call.
Together, let's make 2024 the year of restful nights and happy mornings. Goodnight, not goodbye