You are feeling verrrrry sleeeeepy

It takes Amelia a little while to calm down and get to sleep each evening. We have a pretty strict bed time routine to help which consists of the usual dinner, bath, stories and then bed… but in the last few months we have also had to add in the liberal sprinkling of invisible “mummy dust” (which I seem to have unlimited amounts of coming out of my finger tips – very useful in all sorts of circumstances – thanks Anne!) to ward off bad dreams accompanied by me lightly tickling her nose and then her toes and saying “from your nose all the way down to your toes”, followed by a long lullaby session. This is unvaryingly Paul Simon’s “Under African Skies” slowed right down and repeated about a bazillion times over until she is calm and about to drop off or actually catatonic. This particular song has always had a soporific effect on Amelia, and likewise for me. Some nights as I sing it over and over I feel like I am in that dream, falling and calling (see lyrics) right through the floorboards, or head first onto the bed in pure exhaustion. Let me tell you that her doona, even if it is covered in Buzz, Woody, Teddy Long Legs, Curious George, Warm Kitty and all her other nocturnal buddies, looks incredibly inviting on these long evenings.

Since Kinder began (and maybe also as the baby’s birth gets closer) sleep has become even more interrupted and the lullaby session has moved into the realms of the extended remix b-side dance version. Sometimes I give up when she is still wiggling around or fretting or interrupting with topics such as “Clairey*, why do you think that the My Little Pony dvd is trash?” which then means she calls out for us for up to two hours later. She has also been a little more unsettled during the day so this week I decided to get all new-age on her ass, and introduce RELAXATION to this already weighty evening routine.

And it’s really working!

I haven’t done Yoga for a couple of years now, but it’s amazing how quickly I can recall the almost exact words that my teacher used in our relaxation session at the end of each class. I have adapted it a little so that it suits a 3 year old’s understanding so there is less talk about tension release or muscles or breathing into the diaphragm. I simply get her to do a few rounds of deep breathing and then run over the parts of the face talking about how each feels soft and relaxed, and then work down the body until we get to the toes. The important bit really seems to be my voice and the word “relax” repeated after each body part, in a kind of soft drawn-out whisper.

I also spend a lot of time asking her to imagine floating on a cloud in the warm sunshine and how comfortable and safe she is. On the first night I made the mistake of comparing the cloud to a marshmallow and BLING! she was totally awake “Clairey, why does the Bookshop Cafe only give you one marshmallow [with a babychino] and the Big Cup gives you two?” so we had to start again. But since then I remember to use only safe, very neutral words (forget marshmallow, froth, butterfly and for some reason elbow). And I have to say “Imagine you are…” a lot otherwise she will perk up “But Clairey! There is no sun! It’s dark!” etc. I also have learnt that I must vary it every evening… add a little bit more “breath in deeply…” stuff or more cloud things, because if she gets used to the same words she gets flustered when I don’t repeat them verbatim – which is pretty hard unless you are reading it.

And now she is dropping off before we get to the toes, she seems to sleep most of the night through on the nights we do relaxation and even her daytime stresses seem to be disappearing. Those yoga people are really on to something.

Tonight I have done a quick google search for relaxation for children and have some links to add:

Relaxation for Children Audio CD… I can’t offer any criticism of this cd at all, not having listened to it but if I had a 7-10 year old I would probably give it a burl. The description is pretty good and I usually trust stuff stocked by the ABC Shop.

On E-bility found this article about relaxation for children which talks about breathing, muscle relaxation and visualisation techniques and is a good, quick read.

Here is a script for a Progressive Muscle Relaxation for Children. This has been included in a family clinic website’s ADHD section, but I am sure could be useful more widely. I know Amelia would be jumping on the bed swatting imaginary flies and chasing baby elephants if I attempted this one, but perhaps it would work for older kids.

Great, short article from the Early Childhood Australia Inc website; “A time to simply ‘be’: Building resilient and happy children through relaxation techniques” with tips on how to create a relaxation space.

*For some reason we are no longer Mummy and Daddy but Clairey and Philly… she is a truly modern child despite us trying to get it across to her that we are an old fashioned kind of mum and dad. None of this 1970s first name stuff please.

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29 Responses

  1. This sounds like you deserve an award for patience. We got a book or two and then it was “lights out and don’t let the bed bugs bite!”

  2. Hey Claire, a client of ours recorded a CD for just this purpose as well, which you may want to give a whirl. It’s called Dream Child ( Not have a small one myself, I can’t speak for it personally, but we’ve heard lots of rave reviews.

  3. We have a pretty strict bedtime routine too. It makes a huge difference, as they get older, to already have a routine set in place.
    Thanks for the great links on relaxation for kids. Sometimes those little whipper-snappers are so wound up that relaxation exercises would be a good way to get them back into bed-time mode!

    Your illustration is darling!!

  4. What a great idea! I can’t believe this hasn’t occured to me! – not that I remember much yoga but that my coach used to try and do this for our team every night. It was such a great tactic to settling us down before a big race, which is really what it seems being a 3 year old is really like these days…

  5. Do NOT read Green Eggs and Ham as the nighttime story. They get rather too excited! 🙂
    What a good idea doing the relaxation exercises. Hopefully it helps you lose any of your tension too. And I hope it’s a little faster getting her off to sleep, if you’re standing on your 32-week pregnant feet!

    Well done. And I love the illustration too 🙂

  6. thank you so much claire! i always try to do my best as a mom, but sometimes we forget to simply share a quite moment with our kids. your links are so helpful! icant spot reading your blog. today im starting this “relaxation moment”. i will tell you how she reacts. kisses from argentina

  7. this sounds so lovely. we go through the phases of easy to bed/ hard to bed (currently in an easy to bed phase thank the gods) but i will keep this in mind when Little Man is a little older (as I think at the moment he would just giggle at me) when hit the wakey phases again. and that is so cute she calles you Clairey. Little Man sometimes calls us by the pet names we call each other, too cute. they are such fun aren’t they? as always your drawing is divine.

  8. I think this is a brilliant idea, actually yoga for kid in general is a brilliant idea. Emma really enjoys yoga, she likes the breathing part where she can put a small stuffed animal on her chest and watch him go up and down as she breathes deeply. Good for you for getting creative at bedtime. I’m too tired at that time of day to do anything!

  9. this is a really beautiful post, thank you. I don’t have kids yet, but i often seem to forget that I need to relax more too.

  10. HA! I have just had the hugest whinge to anyone in my pathway about our nighttime routine… or 2 hour tanty as I would better describe it…. I will def. be giving this relaxation (for kids) a whurl. Ta.

  11. This is such a timely post for me. I just started reading Sleepless in America trying to learn how to help our boys get enough sleep. Our routine hasn’t included specific relaxation techniques up to this point, but we will start tonight and see how it goes! Thanks for the links.

  12. very very cute the way you have told this about your baby claire. so adorable the way your daughter calls you claireytake care and stay well

  13. After reading this entire post, the thing that stands out the most for me is that you think the “My Little Pony” DVD is trash ??? I am laughing and laughing at that one. We live, eat, breath and (thankfully) sleep M.L.P. and those voices on the DVD drive me nuts. Why do little girls love them so much? Lovely post Clairey, I enjoyed it very much.

  14. says:

    That is so lovely. Our Annabelle is only a few days younger than your Amelia, and even though we live oceans apart the same thing is happening in our home come bed time. Now if only 15 month old Thomas will follow suit on this bed time deal….Our Bean (aka Annabelle ) has also decided that we must be called by our first names as well, at first endearing and slightly charming in a 3 year old way, but the commands of ‘Say-wa( or Peeeeter)
    I need something to eat, drink’ etc is getting too 70’s for me. I miss the sweet ‘Momma’ requests. Sigh………..

  15. Yes, may have to try some of this too. Right now we just keep reading and reading and reading. more books. more books…

  16. My mother used to do this with me when I was small. We called it the “relaxing game” and it was almost exactly what you described. I used to request it on occasion all the way into my early teen years. We topped it off with the “flop test,” where she would pick up one of my arms and drop it on the bed to see how relaxed I was. (That obviously would be counterproductive to your goal as I’m sure that would wake Amelia right back up!) It’s a fond memory.
    Thanks for sharing the links etc. I am not a parent as of yet but I hope that I will be a parent as caring, creative and dedicated as you! 🙂

  17. says:

    we have a very very long to bed routine over here. i love your description of your nightly relaxation–i’ll have to try it when the little squidge is a little older.
    “Clairey and Philly”–too dang cute!

    sweet dreams…

  18. This is such an adorable touching story…even the mundane in domestic life can be wonderful. Thanks for sharing so much of yourself with others.

  19. I know the feeling of being almost asleep slumped against the cot bars singing a lullaby while little one is still tossing and turning1 I think i’ll try this relaxation technique too. Sleeping nearly the whole night through sounds like a good idea!

  20. says:

    My son tried the name thing too. To remidy it my husband and I had to call each other by “Mommy” and “Daddy” for a while. After hearing the big people useing them he switched back pretty quick.

  21. What a fabulous post – it’s so great to hear how other families are ‘doing it’! Part of our bedtime ritual now includes a dance to Barry white! There are a couple of books around on children’s meditation as well – but it’s a very personal thing.

  22. Oh Claire, what a beautiful post. Thanks for giving me the idea so when Dan grows up we can do this too. Be well.

  23. LOl:).This took me right back to being about 4 ( am now 46), when my Pa used to read poetry to my Brothers and I to help us sleep. He developed a ‘sing song’ intonation, that worked everytime!

  24. says:

    Oh! you have reminded me of all that we went throught with Master 4..I had to remove ALL posters and pictures from his room because the characters kept “talking” to him at night. Its hard to do all this when you are tired yourself. Our Miss 2 will be going into a big bed soon and I will have to go through this all again! The breathing techniques are great for when you are out and toddler gets hysterical over something. Im always saying “Connor.. just breath…” and it stops him in his tracks! Thanks for all the tips!!

  25. says:

    Hi Claire, what a lovely post. Is P taking turns at the bedtime routine too? When #2 arrives you can be free to tend to baby if you need to. My #1 turned into a manipulative monster when she knew I was busy with the new baby. She also called us by our first names until her little sister came on the scene, I missed it when she stopped.

  26. That’s one of my favourite Paul Simon songs as well.. you two have good taste!Sounds like you’ve found just the thing to settle AJ down at bedtime.

    For your sake, I hope you get the name stuff in order before the second one comes…though it did make me laugh.

  27. says:

    I’m so glad to seen other parents getting on to this! We have a hypersensitive six year old boy who couldn’t keep still and kept thinking of all kinds of things to fret about. Now I read him a relaxation/meditation exercise for him every night and – voila – asleep within five minutes, no getting out of bed and a child quietly growing in self-confidence. Josh too, wants the exercise verbatim, and will correct me if I put in a different word.

  28. lol.willow calls us ‘zoe and garth” but we don’t mind so much. My mum always taught me that if i got lost, to yell out her first name, to save everyone confusion. Willow is 3 in 2 weeks and we have only just worked out how to get her (cheerfully) into bed before 10pm. She now goes at 7:30pm. But we have had to give up day sleep and tv and sweet food after 4pm. :/

  29. Clairey! Adorable. And yes, there is something strangely . . . slutty . . . (sorry) . . . about the MLPs. . . . Though their names do rival the tree peonies’ for sheer fluff-factor.