Creative Child

Bedtime from a Young Child’s Perspective

by Rebecca Eanes


It makes sense that children would be hesitant to let go of the closeness they need for what must seem like forever to them. It can be terrifying to lie alone in a dark room, and even though mommy or daddy may be just a few steps away, to a young child, it may feel like a giant chasm. Here are some tips to try to make the separations shorter and more bearable so that everyone can get a good night’s rest.


1. Separate in small chunks. 


Tell your child that you will check in on them in 5 minutes, and then come back and do so. Parenting expert and psychologist Dr. Gordon Neufeld calls this a “continuity of connection.” This will slowly help your child feel more comfortable separating from you, knowing that you will be back soon. Gradually extend the time to 10 minutes, then 20, and so forth until they are asleep.

2. Offer your child contact with you while they sleep. 


Give them a shirt that smells like you, or a special trinket of yours to put under the pillow. This will help them feel connected to you even when you’re absent.

3. Put their focus on the next connection, not on the separation

Whether it’s “I’ll be back before the timer goes off in 10 minutes” or “I’m looking forward to seeing you in the morning, I have something fun planned,” when we put the focus on the next connection, it soothes the alarm children feel when faced with separation. 

The key is to build a bridge between bedtime and the next morning so that the 8-10 hour separation doesn’t feel quite so long and scary. Eventually, they will build the confidence to face the separation without fear. 

For more insight from Miller, visit and see her book, What Young Children Need You to Know.

Rebecca Eanes is the bestselling author of multiple books including Positive Parenting: An Essential Guide, The Positive Parenting Workbook, and The Gift of a Happy Mother. She is the grateful mom of two boys. 


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