How do I get the television (and other electronics!) out of my child’s room without causing a week-long meltdown?
In general, toddlers who have electronics in their room and use them right before bedtime get less sleep and have more sleep problems than ones who don’t. It may appear that the television (or whatever other device with a screen she’s watching or using) helps your child to fall asleep, but it’s likely that it only serves as a distraction that helps keep her in bed. In addition, your child may have gotten into the habit of having a screen on or accessible as she falls asleep – a habit that can be tough to break. But, ironically, because electronics are stimulating for a child, they may actually be delaying your child’s sleep onset – meaning, it may be causing them to fall asleep later or take longer to fall asleep.
The easiest solution is to keep electronics with a screen out of your toddler’s bedroom from the beginning. If that ship has sailed, you are not alone. And fortunately, it’s not too late! Taking them out now may be challenging initially, but the long-term improvement in your child’s sleep will be worth it. Here are a few tips to help with the transition:
• Your child may want to watch the TV or tablet simply because he is afraid of the dark or has other nighttime fears. If this is the case, check out this video on helping your child with bedtime fears for some helpful strategies. Then, replace the screen with another light source, such as a night light or projector light to help the transition.
• Find replacements for the screens, such as using a white noise (like a fan) or very soft music; starting a new fun bedtime routine activity, such as reading or singing a song; or, giving your little one a bedtime comfort object (as long as she is old enough, 12-months or older), such as a favorite blanket or stuffed animal.
• As a compromise, consider allowing electronics usage right before you start the bedtime routine. This way, your little one still has some access to a favorite show, but it is farther away from lights out and is time-limited.
• Finally, if your child does not know how to fall asleep any other way than with electronics, some sleep training may be in order. This post about helping your little one fall asleep without electronics may be helpful if you think that situation sounds familiar.
If it’s not practical at this time to take the TV out of your child’s room, take the power cord with you each night for a quick solution. This will work with most TVs made in the last 10 years. Fortunately, all other electronics can be “tucked in to bed” for the night on the kitchen counter or elsewhere in your room.
Lead by example and make it a family effort. You may not want to remove the TV from your own bedroom, but consider committing to not using electronics while in bed. Make sure to tell your child if your sleep improves – there’s a good chance it will!
Finally, track and reward the effort that you and your little one put in to get those electronics out of the bedroom. It’s not an easy task if it’s something you’ve always done – habits are hard to change! For your toddler, this could be as simple as a sticker chart that earns her some inexpensive prizes or extra privileges (like getting to pick the movie for family movie night). If this is something you are working on, too, track things for yourself and earn something you might like – perhaps some time out of the house or an extra special activity with the family. Up to you!About Dr. Kevin Smith