Saturday, August 17, 2013

Our Transition to Kindergarten

It was a big week at our home; our Short Chic started Kindergarten.

We knew this day was coming and we recognized that we had some things to get ready for. The Short Chic has never had any type of schedule. We have been fortunate enough that my in-laws took care of her, so she never had to be up at any given schedule. Since she never had to be up at a certain time, we never put her to bed at a designated time. We would wake her up right as we were ready to walk out the door in the morning but often she left home without breakfast, without her hair being combed, or even dressed for the day. If she wanted to wear her pajamas all day long, that is what she wore.

I should also confess that The Short Chic also still slept in bed with us. She has been a third bed partner for years. The Husband and I both kinda liked having her close by. The number one reason we kept her close to us was it gave my husband and I more quality sleep. We did not have to get up and down in the middle of the night. If she woke up, she reached out, found us and immediately went right back to sleep. If you feel the need to judge, go ahead. Yes, we have had a family bed for the past five years.

But then she got big. Our quality of sleep went down. She elbowed us in the middle of the night; kicked us all night long, and just generally took up more room than I wanted with all of her stuffed animals and dolls.

So, with school approaching, we sat down and had a family meeting. We set a bedtime for the first time ever. We established a morning routine that would be necessary with school.  We opted for a 9 p.m. bedtime, an 8:30 bath time with one book being read before bed. We thought we would start at 9 and see how tired she was in the morning and adjust from there. {And when I say we I mean all of us. The Short Chic had just as much say as the rest of us in her new schedule.}The biggest decision we made was transition her out of our bed and into her own bed.

This is not the first time we have made such a decision. We went from a baby room to little girls dream room two years ago in an attempt to entice her into her own room. Last year we got her dream light after she promised she would sleep in her own bed. Each previous attempt last a few days...maybe a week..and then we would lower our guard, cave into her cuteness and let her back in bed with us.

 It has been three weeks since we had our family meeting. Three weeks of following our plan. We quickly found that even if she fought us to take a bath, once she got into the bath she did not want to get out. So we moved bath time up till 8:00. Establishing the morning routine was actually pretty easy. Once she was awake, I kept asking her: what do you need to do? She would answer, “Get Dressed, Brush My Hair, Have Breakfast, Brush my Teeth.” The hardest part, you already know what I am going to say don’t you, was the sleeping.

For the first week, she would wake up at 3:00 a.m. or 4:30 a.m, or 5:00 a.m. just to get out of bed and tell me that she loved me. I would force myself out of bed, walk her to her bed, put her back in it, and hope she would stay there. She often did not. The Husband also struggled. He would walk her back to bed and lay down with her in her bed.

So, we had another meeting {The Husband and I had a private meeting!}. To the Short Chic I explained that I knew she loves me. I reminded her that I love her too. Then we sat some tough boundaries. We do not need to say “I love you” in the middle of the night. We sat parameters around what she could get up out of bed for: 1) if she was sick or hurt, 2) to go to the bathroom, which she did not need to wake me for. I also put an alarm clock in her room. Even though she does not understand time, she knows that 5 is bigger than 4 and that 6 comes after 5. With the alarm clock I gave her a time frame. She had my permission to come and wake me once the clock said 7.

It was the best thing ever! She began sleeping all night, uninterrupted in her own bed. Three weeks later, school has started and we are following our new schedule like we have been doing it for years.

I had a moment of weakness this past week. We all took one last minute vacation before school started. The Boy went with us and The Short Chic went with her Nana and Papa. I missed her so much and so wanted to give her permission to crawl into bed and just cuddle for one night. But I did not. I made it through my weak moment and we are stronger because of it!

Helping toddlers, or any child, requires some planning. You do not have to have a family meeting but you do need to think through all the details.

  1. Have a plan. Better yet; have a back up plan, too! Think through all the potential pitfalls and address them, before they happen. 
  2. Be clear. Remember you are talking to little people. Keep it simple, but also remember they are brighter than you might believe. 
  3. Set forth expectations. Children can't read your mind if you expect something of them, make it known. 
  4. Be firm. One of my favorite Mommy roles is the nurturing. But children need more than nurturing to thrive. Sometimes they need to be able to recognize a boundary. Please notice I said to be Firm and not stringent. Teaching new behaviors is stressful and stress often leads to moments of frustration. Just take it slow; be firm but know that all forward progress is good.
  5. Be flexible. If it is not working there is no need to cause grief for yourself or your children. Find a new solution. 
  6. Be consistent. This is one of the hardest part of parenting.  If you only do it half the time then you can expect your children will only do it half the time too. If my Husband and I had been consistent maybe one of our other 99 attempts to transition her to her own bed would have been successful.

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