A PracticalDad Tip: Helping Your Child Nap
Her body might be crying out for a nap but she’s too excited or overwrought to be able to actually get to sleep. It’s certainly possible to let her scream herself down but if she starts to equate naptime with turmoil, then all naptimes will become more difficult. You can help her get to sleep – without a dose of Benedryl – with the investment of a little time and a bit of patience.
Children have almost nil control of their emotions and her screaming isn’t because you’re a rotten father for wanting her to have to stop and nap; it’s exhaustion ripped through with frustration. She’d be screaming at her mother, Santa and the Easter Bunny if they were there.
What To Do?
Lie down with her and talk with her quietly until she can regain some form of calm; I’ve sung at times as well. Once she’s slowed down a bit, wrap her in your arms and begin a steady pattern of long and slow deep breathing. If she’s fidgeting – typically in an attempt to stay awake – then gently hold her hands in your own. Continue this process and you’ll likely find that her breathing pattern begins to match your own and she’ll nod off to sleep in several minutes.
For those instances when she can’t calm herself, consign yourself to taking the time to actually wrap her in your arms and hugging her until she stops. While doing this, follow a deep and steady breathing pattern; not only does it provide a pattern for her to mimic, but it will also serve to help you remain calm as well. Again, you’ll likely find that she’s asleep within a few minutes.
The real key to this is your own self-control. Even if she can’t adequately express or understand, seeing you control yourself in the face of outbursts will provide a model for her future behavior. If, at any time, you note your own self-control flagging, then it’s time to simply leave the room and let her have at it.
On most occasions, this technique has worked for me. But there have been times when I’ve been best served to walk out and let the child go – there’s no sense compounding her misery with my own.