Play before bedtime, good or not?

Have you noticed that your child tends to be more playful around bedtime? We usually think she is doing that because she doesn’t want to sleep and would do anything to avoid sleeping.
A small part of this is genuine, but not because she doesn’t want to sleep, but because she can’t.

To sleep peacefully, children need four things: to be tired, relaxed, and to feel safe and connected.
But sometimes, children can’t feel relaxed because of their accumulated painful feelings. Those feelings come out, especially around bedtime, because when they are tired, it’s harder to repress them. We can notice that for ourselves too.

The good news is that our children have their natural ways of releasing accumulated feelings through crying, raging, laughing, and playing, so if they want to start playing before bedtime, it’s their natural mechanism operating and trying to help them feel relaxed so they can sleep peacefully.

If we follow their “request” and play with them, we will meet their need for connection. After they feel connected, their nervous system will receive the message that they are safe and it’s safe for them to sleep.

After we meet their need for safety and connection, play and laughter will help them release their painful feelings accumulated during the day or from the past, like frustration, fear, or powerlessness. Afterward, their bodies will feel relaxed emotionally and physically so they can sleep soundly.

You may notice that after the play and laughter, tears will appear. It’s normal, and it’s a sign that tells us that play did its job and that the child feels safe enough to let much deeper feelings find their way out through tears or tantrums.
The most helpful thing we can do in those moments is to get closer to the child, show our love and empathy, touch her gently, or hold her and allow her to cry.

Depending on the situation, we can follow our child’s lead. If she starts to be “silly” and goofy, play and be “silly” with her. Remember, it’s her natural release mechanism operating and trying to dissolve her uncomfortable feelings through play.

After attachment play, the child might start getting rough or hitty, which tells us that play has done its job in helping bring deeper feelings to the surface. We can then set a loving limit and accept the child’s cry or tantrum that might come up. Loving limits are a beautiful way to help our child to release her painful feelings. It’s a limit where we say no to the behavior and yes to the feelings underneath it.

Suppose we understand how attachment play works and use it in parenting. In that case, we will cooperate with all the natural ways our children use to relax, heal from stress or trauma, connect with us, or make sense of their world.

(Visited 43 times, 1 visits today)

Leave A Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *