Little Sir came home just after his 3rd birthday. We hadn’t had much experience with small children before Little Miss and Little Sir came home, so in all honesty we had much higher (and very unrealistic) expectations of a 3 and 5 year old. We realised quickly that a just turned 3 year old doesn’t have great control over his bladder, will still have 2 year old temper tantrums that last for hours, and isn’t great at sharing. But the one thing we thought we had avoided was sleep issues! According to his Foster Carer, he was a great sleeper, and this was certainly true for the first few months. In fact so much so that we were congratulating ourselves on how we had this part cracked! However, a few months in, the sleep issues reared their heads in a big way!
I was pretty good at dealing with extra toilet training, and I learnt quickly how to manage the tantrums, but the one thing I struggled most with was the disturbed sleep. I understood why he was waking at night at the beginning – he was still only very tiny and had had such a disruptive few years with moving to different placements, it was only natural. So, as much as I could, I embraced it and hoped that the stage would move on and he would learn to settle himself soon.
However…it became clear towards the end of his 3rd year that waking in the night and getting mummy to come running was his main aim. At one point he even said ‘I just wanted a cuddle’, when I questioned why he was screaming at the top of his lungs at 3am. Part of me melted that he wanted to be with me so much, but the other part was so tired and so ready to sleep through the night that I had to devise a plan! Hence, the moving in of our fairy!
I had read somewhere that in order to encourage him to sleep through, or to settle himself back down, I needed to come up with something he wanted more than me. So I racked my brains, and thought along the lines of a reward chart. I figured that stickers/chocolates/stars probably wouldn’t be something he wanted more – but a small toy vehicle probably would be! So remembering that I had bought a fairy door and put it away with the intention of using it for the Tooth Fairy, I stuck it on the wall, wrote a letter to Little Sir from his Sleep Fairy, and left it for him to find!
Dear Little Sir
My name is Sarah, your Sleep Fairy. Your Mummy has told me that you are struggling to sleep through the night, so I have moved in to your house to help you.
Every night that you manage to stay in your bed and not wake up your Mummy, there will be a small treat waiting outside my door. If you do wake up then I shall know about it, and won’t be able to bring you your treat.
It is really important that you have lots of sleep to help you grow big and strong like Spiderman and your Daddy.
Lots of love, Sarah the Sleep Fairy
So began our few weeks of sleep training. Little Sir was so excited to have his own fairy, and a reminder before bedtime seemed to work well. For the first night in such a long time, we all had a full night’s sleep. The next morning he bounded down the stairs to find a tiny aeroplane waiting for him! And this set the tone for the next few weeks. Of course there were a few set backs, and he was so upset when he discovered that he actually did have to sleep through the night to receive his treat, but by the end of the third week, we had it cracked and he was sleeping through the night – the sleep issues were gone!
I had been concerned at the beginning that once we started down this route, it would be hard to stop it. However, we had started this just before his 4th birthday, so on his birthday the fairy left a present for him with a letter telling him that he no longer needed her help and she was going off to help another little boy with his sleep. Thankfully he took this incredibly well and we haven’t needed the Sleep Fairy to return!
So peace reigns on the Newby Tribe once more. Part of me feels slightly guilty at having bribed my son to go to sleep, but quite a lot of me is thankful that it actually worked and we are all getting the sleep we now need! Long may it last!!
Have you found that your pre-schooler has suddenly developed sleep issues again? Have you had any success in dealing with it? I’d love to hear some other ideas you have tried!