Dr Jinan Harith Darwish is a paediatric allergy specialist and clinical immunology fellow at the King Faisal Specialist Hospital & Research Center. Each month she answers your parenting questions.
Q: My three-year-old daughter has her own bed and is a good sleeper on the whole but, in the last few weeks, she has started waking several times a night and coming into our bed. My husband has an early start and the sleep disturbance is beginning to affect us all. Can you suggest anything to get her back into a settled routine?
A: Make sure you’re not part of the problem.
When children sense a parent’s sorrow they naturally seek to soothe them. For that reason, if you fancy your bed back, you may need to take a hard look at how you feel about changing the sleeping arrangements. Be sure you’re not sending your daughter a mixed message.
Evaluate what may be feeding your child’s apprehension.
Spend time thinking about other changes that could be contributing to your child’s bedtime issues. Is she getting enough time with both parents? Is her bedroom comfy? Does she have a regular day-to-day routine or is the family schedule different every day?
Include your child in creating a solution.
Once you’ve identified the problem, brainstorm with your daughter what might make her bedroom more cosy. Remember to be creative and have fun together. Ideas can range from creating a special bedtime ritual to putting glow-in-the-dark stars on the ceiling and counting them each night. Bottom line, your daughter needs to hear from you that part of being a healthy family entails everyone sleeping in their own bed.
Create a bedtime routine and stick to it.
Routines and structure are the cornerstone of children feeling out of harm’s way and secure. Together create a bedtime routine that engages your child in winding down for the day (ie reading a bedtime story, singing a song, saying a prayer, reciting a verse from the Holy Quran or sharing three good things about her day that she is grateful for). Do your best to stay committed to your nighttime activities and schedule.
Don’t cave when the going gets tough.
Getting children to sleep in their own bed can be extraordinarily taxing even for the most gifted of parents. Bear in mind change takes time. Even if things go well the first couple of nights, keep in mind some backsliding is normal. It may be wise to have a plan in place for how you will handle a midnight visitor or endless amounts of pleading after you’ve tucked them in bed. If this happens, quietly walk your child back to bed without lecturing, getting angry or engaging in a conversation. Also steer clear of giving them an incentive to carry on the behaviour by lingering in their room.
Q: I’m getting lots of conflicting information about when I should take my little boy for his first visit to the dentist. I was always terrified of the dentist as a child and I don’t want to pass my fear on to him. Can you tell me when is best to go and how I can reassure him – he is coming up for two?
A: As a parent, you need to set up healthy habits in your child from a very young age, especially when it comes to developing good dental health. According to the American Academy of Pediatrics and the American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry the finest time to take a child to a dentist for the very first time is at age one or six months after the first tooth comes in.
Before you can schedule your child’s first trip to a paediatric dentist, you need to find the right dentist. Help your son be more at ease when the time comes for their first visit by practising at home. Tell him that you are going to count his teeth, just like the dentist will. Use a toothbrush to lightly tap each tooth and start counting. Examine your child’s teeth with a mirror.
To build a sense of adventure in his head about visiting a thrilling new place and meeting fascinating new people is a great idea. Children look forward to amusing activities, and that’s how a visit to the dentist must be portrayed by parents. Allowing him to bring his favourite toy or blanket along will also help him feel more relaxed.
If you have a question for Dr Jinan, please email firstname.lastname@example.org