My husband travels a lot, and when he’s away our three- year-old is restless and often comes into my room in the middle of the night. How can I get her to sleep better during these times?
When one parent is away children can usually sense a change in atmosphere, especially if you’re a closely-attached family and your children are attached to the absent parent. Upsetting the family harmony often leads to disturbed sleep. Even children younger than two can sense when a parent is away.
Your child’s security may be threatened. To ease this nighttime insecurity, put a futon or sleeping bag at the foot of your bed. Market this as a “special bed” to be used when daddy is away. The fun of sleeping in a special place will help her forget her fear, as will the closeness to you. Be open to this arrangement even when dad is home. If he’s gone a lot, this nighttime closeness for the whole family could be a way to make up for lost time.
Separation anxiety can cause a child to become restless when fathers or mothers travel a lot. If one or both parents are away, the child under three may not understand that mommy and daddy will be back in two days. When one or both of us must travel, we’ve learned to soften the separation by helping our children understand when we will come back. We take them to the airport and let them see planes taking off. While we’re gone we call every day, and then we have our substitute caregiver bring the children to the airport to see our plane land and watch us de-plane. Your child may not comprehend the concept of “two days,” so use concrete terms she can understand: “Today, we’ll go to the store and visit grandma and then go to sleep. Tomorrow, we’ll play with your friends. One more bedtime, and then daddy will come home.” Make a chart or a picture and cross off the events as they happen. Also, ask dad to make a tape recording of him reading the child’s favorite stories and bedtime songs.