Hi Kate, I loved your blog post on giggle discipline!
We were wondering if you had any tips for 2 years olds who wake in the night and only want to be comforted by one parent and not the other?
My daughter has a really close relationship with her Dad who does most of the daycare while I work four days a week. But if she wakes at night she cries out for me and screams if her Dad goes to comfort her. My husband used to be able to comfort her wonderfully at night – we think the switch might have happened shortly after she moved from a cot to a bed but we can’t really piece it together.
She also now strongly (and quite vocally!) prefers me to put her to bed at night. Interestingly if I’m away she won’t wake up or will settle very quickly with her Dad – it’s only a problem when I’m here! Thanks! ‘V’
Thanks for your message. Giggle Parenting is a great resource for helping children to fall asleep easily, and sleep through the night well. Scientific research has shown that laughter actually releases melatonin – the sleep hormone, so adding some giggles to your bedtime routine can be really effective.
Children view sleep as a separation, so laughter play can help give an increased sense of connection so children sleep through the night. Pillow fights, rough-and-tumble, or any ways you can bring laughter into the bedtime routine can be helpful. I wrote a post about sleep and laughter here which has some more suggestions. It might be something that you or your husband could try so she gradually becomes comfortable with either one of you putting her to bed.
You can also try giggle parenting around the theme of separation at other times of day. I have a list here of 20 playful solutions for separation anxiety. Some are great if you’ve got a few extra minutes before leaving the house for work, to have a bit of a giggle first. Every little bit helps.
This may help your daughter sleep better, but Giggle Parenting is probably only part of what’s needed. Sometimes upset feelings can bubble up about separation anxiety, which your daughter then attaches to a strong preference to having one parent with her. Sometimes it might actually be helpful to set a limit, and slowly work towards daddy putting her to bed or resettling her in bed.
One thing you could do is to tell your daughter earlier in the evening that daddy will put her to bed that night. Then perhaps you could have a fun, connected, pillow fight where the whole family gets involved.
Then you could gently set a limit with your daughter, and start to leave but listening to any upsets that arise. Crying is actually a healing process for children when there is an adult close by to give them cuddles and empathy. Through crying children can release stress and upset about underlying feelings. If your daughter gets to cry, and express how she feels about separation, while you are close to her, then this can help her to release the feelings that cause her strong preference to be with you in the night. Then she can feel safe and happy to be put to bed by either parent, and she will probably sleep much better too.
If you’d like to learn more about how listening to feelings helps with sleep you might want to check out my article 5 Sleep Secrets For Peaceful Nights.
I hope these resources help! Let me know how it goes 🙂
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If you’d like an in-depth look at how laughter can solve behavioural challenges, then check out Playful Parenting by Dr. Lawrence J. Cohen.