A tween is a girl from the ages of 10 to 12 years old also referred to as a preadolescent, that "in-between" stage of development that is often mistakenly described as "too old for toys and too young for boys." I say mistakenly, because the range of characteristics, personalities, temperaments, and interests is very wide. Some of these girls feel like they are still 8 years old and some look like they are 16! And if you are confused as a mother just think how confused they feel.
When bedtime comes, all these confusions whirl around in their heads and these girls cannot fall asleep. How can a mother help her daughter settle in, so she will not be exhausted in the morning and have trouble getting up on time for school?
Two Important Going-to-Sleep Tips for Mothers and their Tweens
1. Talk about worries hours before bed.
If this is an ongoing problem, have a quiet uninterrupted discussion about ways your daughter would like you to help her. You may have to experiment for as long as even a week or two before you find the right formula, so do not start by focusing on the act of going to bed itself.
First you need to find out what the problem is. How can you solve a problem if you do not know what it is? Ask your daughter to explain what happens when it is bedtime.
She may describe not feeling tired when actually her body is exhausted but her mind is on alert. Discuss her worries before trying to figure out what to do.
Worries may include the pressure of school work, wanting to feel accepted by her friends, feeling over-scheduled and rushed, having no time for relaxation.
You may discover you do not end up talking about sleep but about one of those worries and how to resolve a specific problem. That talk in itself, may help her sleep that night.
2. Plan a Sleep Routine
Once each of the worries are discussed over several days or weeks and your daughter is still having trouble falling asleep, ask her for suggestions and then offer your own as well. Here are a few ideas.
• She might be twelve but not too old to have her mother sit by her side and gently massage her back for a while.
• Use a night light, to reduce any residual fears of the dark.
• If she still has a comforting blanket or stuffed animal, let her hold it without worrying she is acting like a baby. But, only keep that comforter at her bed, no place else in the house.
• Read to her from one of her favorite books or sit by her side while she reads for twenty minutes on her own. Tweens still like to be read to, so you need not be surprised if she prefers you do the reading while she closes her eyes.
In time, you and she will establish a routine that works well. Then you might slowly extricate yourself from the process, because her body will have established a falling to sleep rhythm that she can carry out on her own.
The wonder of it all is not only that she is sleeping and generally calmer, but you have solved several worries, given her a chance to learn she can sleep on her own over time, and strengthened you mother-daughter bond with no arguments or inflexible rules. Your daughter has gained your trust and she now trusts herself as well.
Laurie Hollman, Ph.D. is a psychoanalyst and author whose book, Unlocking Parental Intelligence: Finding Meaning in Your Child's Behavior can be found on Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Familius and wherever books are sold.