As a first time parent and with so many readily available philosophies on how to do everything with my child from feeding to diapering to sleeping, I spent the first 3.5 years of my son’s life sleep deprived, exhausted, confused and in search for answers.
It wasn’t until I came across The Sleep Lady Shuffle that I finally found what seemed to be the balanced solution I was longing for. It equipped me with the tools I needed to coach each child in my care through the age-appropriate lessons they were learning, such as sleep and various other coping skills. The Shuffle also reassured me I could be available for the children through the processes as opposed to feeling as if I were abandoning or neglecting them.
For example, while my son Bailey was learning to fall asleep on his own, I remember watching him learn to comfort himself. He would wave his lovey (“blankie”) all around, roll side to side and smell his lovey. After awhile he would slow down, and I would see him rubbing the corner of it as he drifted off to sleep. As I was there with him through that process I felt like I learned about my son and the way he learns: he needs his space, but he also needs to know I’m there to support him.
Embrace The Learning Curve
While it may sound as if the learning curve was effortless and stress-free, that’s definitely not the case.
There were indeed tears involved on occasion – both from the grown up and the child – yet through the tears and the “growing pains” I learned many valuable lessons I’m now able to share with each parent going through the shuffle process and sitting in the chair:
- Just breathe. Breathe deeply to get calm, connected, and centered. Doing some deep belly breathing helps you be as present with your child as possible when they need you. By purposefully inhaling and exhaling you’re able to transfer your calm to your child.
- Teach your children to belly breathe. To help your children get to calm and centered when they get angry, mad, or sad, have them do some belly breathing. There’s even a cute Elmo video you can use to teach toddlers and preschoolers how to breathe right through those big emotions.
- Have a mantra. Find one that works for you and brings you peace and focus in the midst of the storm. “I’m calm and connected,” and “My child will grow and develop better with good sleep,” are two I used on a regular basis during those moments of peaked emotions.
- Mentally take yourself somewhere that is relaxing. Imagine the sights, sounds, smells, experiences and how you feel on your getaway.
- Observe and trust your children. Your little ones are very capable of independently learning anything, and amazingly they can do it while you’re coaching them from the sidelines. Not only will you be proud of their coping skills, you’ll also be boosting their self-confidence and preparing them for the next round of lessons.
It’s an honor for me to celebrate and share in the success of hundreds of parents in helping their little ones learn to sleep as they successfully shuffle out of the room.
There is nothing more rewarding for me than to hear parents express those “aha moments” of success:
“Wow! I can’t believe he/she did it. It really does work!”
They also learn even more about their child during this short season of consistency in the process.
Children are in a constant state of learning, and as parents we will continue through the years to be their biggest cheerleaders and supporters. These truly are the loving lessons our children teach us about love and life.
Irene Gouge is wife and mom of two in Holly Springs, North Carolina. She supports tired parents with gentle sleep and parent solutions focused on love and respect. As a trained and certified Gentle Sleep Coach she helps families get back those sleep- filled nights to have healthy children, happy parents, and harmonious homes. She’s the creator of Loving Lessons, GetSleep.TV, Parent CIRCLE Network, and The Pediatric Health and Wellness Community, and Board Member for Postpartum Education and Support. Find more sleep and parent tips on Facebook or Twitter.
Did you find this article helpful? Please share it with your friends by clicking below, or ask a question on The Sleep Lady Facebook page.