I’ve had a lot of people ask what to do if an older child is having a hard time with bedtime because the parent being in the room seems to keep them awake instead of helping them sleep.
When my oldest was around three I started needing to leave the room because my being there was more stimulating than calming.
What I would do is I would do the bedtime routine outside of his room, then we would go into his room and lay in his bed and read some books. I’d step him through the steps to relax his body and his mind.
“It is bedtime. It is time to sleep. When I am sleepy I lay down and let my thoughts get… sloowwwwww. Goodnight feet. Relax your feet and let them sinkkkk into your warm and comfy bed. Goodnight legs.. relax your legs and let them sink into your warm and comfy bed. Goodnight knees… Relax your knees and let them sink into your warm and comfy bed…. I like to breathe sloowwww and deeeeep, it feels calm. ::breathes slowwww and deep:: Then we relaaaaax our bums and let them sink into your warm and comfy bed. And we relaaaax our belly and our chest. Breathing slow… Our hands are sleepy too. And our arms are relaxed. Let your shoulders melt into your pillow. Now your body is calm and sleepy and your head is heavy and sinking into your pillow, too. ::stroke child’s face:: You are so beautiful and I love you so much. You have big beautiful sleepy eyes. ::stroke child’s face near the side of one eye, bumping gently into their eyelashes. Mmm.. Let’s snuggle down and be sleepy together.” at which point I snuggle down and close my eyes and continue to gently stroke my child’s face.
After a week or so of that I would let my oldest know that he didn’t seem to be falling asleep just yet, and that I had to feed the dog and I would be back in a couple of minutes and that if he stays in bed I can snuggle him some more. I’d go feed the dog really quickly and then come back upstairs and snuggle until he fell asleep.
I gradually increased the number of chores that I would do each night, each one brief with a check-in and a quick snuggle after. Eventually he started falling asleep within fifteen minutes with one check-in instead of taking 1-2 hours to finally wind down.
He never cried, he was never upset, and I always came back. I still check in on him to make sure he’s sleeping, to tuck him in and to tell him I love him. He’s older now and doesn’t really need it anymore, but it’s a sweet tradition that I enjoy and will continue unless he tells me it’s time to stop.