Monday, July 6, 2009

Feelings

It is hard to relay to others when you feel you have been born with a special gift. Talent like a beautiful voice, artistry, expression, etc are all skills one can display and not be questioned about. But what if you pick up feelings? In my case the feelings of children. It has only been recently that I have discovered that this gift has been present all my life. It was something that I thought everyone possessed and so for that reason, I would get so frustrated when people misinterpreted what a child needed.

The most misunderstood need is sleep. Children need to be rested to be happy, to be able to cope, to understand the bombardment of concepts in their growing years. It always seems that excuses are being made as to why a child won't nap or go to bed at an early hour (7:30pm-8:30pm). "Johnny doesn't need a nap anymore", those words used to make me cringe when I worked in child care. Johnny may have been anywhere from 2yrs to 5yrs old. If he napped he would give mom or dad a hard time to go to sleep that night so by taking his nap away, the child was so exhausted that mom and dad would have an easier time. Poor Johnny was so tired after his lunch that it took one on one attention just to keep him awake! I am not saying that the child should snooze for 3 or 4 hours but it was clear that he needed to recharge his battery. The afternoons were filled with reminders to get along with others, share, we don't bite our friends, we don't hit our friends or just plain whining and crying that could not be controlled. Is it any wonder that Johnny would fall asleep on the way home and barely eat his supper if he could stay awake for supper at all?

Rather than take a look at what the routine was just before bed, the mom or dad would rather the child go through a horrible afternoon! Sometimes children wake up completely refreshed in 30 minutes. Sometimes children just need an hour. Rested children are happy children. Bedtime may be a challenge but a child should not reach the point of exhaustion in order to be able to fall asleep at night. What kind of adult will this child become?

I guess I am in for it now..."my child is healthy and doesn't nap" someone will say and if that child is happy and able to cope throughout the afternoon, I will totally agree. This is not for you. But if your child is face first in his supper plate, you may want to rethink the no nap policy. And I am talking about the night after night group. Every child will have an exhausting day from time to time but when it is day after day?

Children do have a hard time settling down for naps most of the time. They have been playing hard all morning and now we want them to relax. Hard but not impossible and the rewards are many. Friends used to ask how I was able to settle children down when their efforts proved fruitless. I used to try to explain how to read their body language. Get in their motion. Patting backs to their rhythm. People would look at me and wonder what the heck I was talking about. I thought I was explaining myself very well. But I observed others using my techniques but not paying attention when the child didn't respond and then not changing the technique to meet the child's need.

I would say that you need to rub his back lower/higher/softer/deeper/in a rocking motion. They would say, "but how do you know that?". I just did. Once the child developed a routine, it got easier but before then, you could be assisting that child to relax for up to 30 min. but you are not just "putting them to sleep", you are helping them to recognize their body signals, teaching them to control themselves and reach inner peace. It's a beautiful thing.

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