Thursday, December 20, 2012

Healthy Sleep for Families

Healthy Sleep for Families

Sleep is a vital part of good health and well-being, and it is important to develop healthy sleep patterns for your children at an early age.  Many parents and caregivers have questions around the amount of sleep a child needs and how to support better sleep patterns.  The amount of sleep varies for each child.  Typically newborns sleep 16 hours a day, two year-olds sleep 11 ½ hours a day, and four year olds sleep 11 hours a day.   Helping your child obtain the right amount of sleep for their body can also help avoid behavioral issues associated with inadequate sleep.  Below are a few tips and recommendations on healthy sleep for families with young children:

-          Prepare the environment: Make sure the child has a space ready for sleep before you start the bedtime routine.  It should be quiet, dark, and not too hot or cold.

-          Set a consistent schedule: Start the bedtime routine at the same time each night.

-          Prepare the child: End the day with a quiet activity, such as a bath or reading a book, to help your child settle down.  Teach your child the Pajama Rule, where there are no loud and energetic activities once the pajamas are put on.  Children can follow a visual schedule with pictures to let them know what happens next in the evenings.  Support your child with using the bathroom beforehand. 

-          Create a nurturing routine: Many children love to read books with their parents/caregivers or talk about their day.  Share a positive moment from the day with your child and let them know what to expect tomorrow.

-          Turn off the television: Television can be a distraction to falling asleep, and the light emitted by a television is counterproductive to our body’s ability to generate melatonin, which communicates to our body that it is time to sleep.

-          Make the room comfortable: White noise from a fan can help a child ease into sleep.  Darkness can be scary for some children, and night lights can be reassuring. 

-          Stay patient but firm: Stick to the schedule and limits, so your child does not create a pattern of leaving their bedroom for attention.  Redirect your child to bed quietly, without reinforcing their behavior with a lot of conversation or emotion.

Developing healthy sleep patterns can take time for young children, and it is normal to see changes from time to time.  A great place to ask questions about your child’s sleep and health is with your pediatrician at your regular well-child visits and developmental screening.  You can also contact the Parent Child Center at Northwestern Counseling & Support Services and speak with the Children’s Integrated Services Coordinator, Heather Wilson, at (802) 393-6601 if you have additional questions or concerns with your child’s development.

Sources: Bright Futures, American Academy of Pediatrics; Zero to Three National Center for Infants, Toddlers, and Families; Solve Your Child’s Sleep Problems, Richard Ferber, M.D. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.


Submitted by Heather Wilson, Children’s Integrated Services Coordinator, NCSS Children, Youth & Family Services Division.

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Forming Healthy Attachments

Many parents express concerns that they are not doing enough to help their young children develop. The fact is, that one of the most important things that parents can do to support healthy development in their children is to express their love and affection towards their children. Studies have shown connections not only between love and healthy attachment and emotional development, but also between love and healthy brain development.
Children need to form healthy attachments early in their lives to help them create a strong foundation for emotional well-being throughout their lives. Young children need repetition of positive, warm experiences with their caregivers to help them develop. Playing peek-a-boo, singing songs, reading books, and playing silly games that are enjoyable for the child and for the parent will help support the child’s healthy development.
Expressing love and affection is one of the most important things parents can do for their children. For many parents this may come naturally, but this can be challenging for some parents if they are facing challenges with their own mental and/or physical health or if the children are displaying challenging behavior or do not express love and affection toward their parents the way the parents hope they will. This can happen if the children are experiencing mental and/or physical health challenges, or if they have developmental differences that impact how they experience or express affection. Early experiences of trauma can also impact a child’s brain development. Children who experience a lot of stress as infants, even if they do not have explicit memories of these events, have high levels of cortisol secreted into their brain which negatively impacts brain functioning.
If you would like support forming healthy connections with your children, or if you have concerns about your child’s ability to form healthy connections with you, contact Northwestern Counseling & Support Services or speak to your child’s pediatrician. The contact at the NCSS Family Center is Heather Wilson, Children’s Integrated Services, Intake Coordinator, at 802-393-6601.
Submitted by Annie Corrigan, CIS Early Intervention Developmental Educator, NCSS Children, Youth & Family Services Division.