Getting the Support You Need to Resolve Sleep Issues

One of the mothers in my ongoing support group has a 2-year-old daughter who had a really hard time falling asleep. This is her story:

Ever since our sweet little daughter was an infant we had to help her fall asleep, which meant sitting by her bedside for two hours (every night!), patting her head and back, giving her water, and feeling like we were there against our will. And in spite of this bedtime routine, she usually woke frequently and demanded our presence during the night as well.

Ever since she was a baby our daughter has been going through many different medical procedures that have made her life and ours pretty challenging. And I kept feeling that, as her mother, I could not cause her additional pain and frustration. Watching her cry for a long time in bed was hard for me to handle, and this was keeping me from doing what I needed to do, and knew I should do. 

For a few months I worked on my own feelings about this issue in my listening time in our support group. And then I felt like we were ready to move forward and bring some change. It took both my husband and me to be there with our daughter and our older son. We started by telling them over dinner: “Tonight, we are going to try something different at bedtime, something that will help you sleep better in your bed without mommy and daddy staying in the room the whole time.” Then, after taking a shower, both kids got to do some Special Time (5 minutes for each child with each parent). Then there were some more stories and a few songs, followed by a hug and a kiss. And then we suggested that we were going to go to the other room and fold the laundry.

The first few nights this suggestion was not really accepted (as can be expected…) and there was a lot of moving around and going in and out of the room. Some nights there was crying and resistance to our leaving the room. At that stage, I generally tried to stay as close as possible to allow the crying to flow and to reassure my daughter, saying, “Mommy loves you,” and “Mommy will always keep you safe, even when she’s in the other room.” Bit by bit, over many nights, I moved farther away from her as I listened to her feelings pour out until the crying subsided and I could leave the room. I always had to keep the “right distance” for the feelings to come out, because if I came too close then the crying would stop but she still couldn’t fall asleep without me.

During this process I had a lot of feelings of my own, including uneasiness and fear about what this process was going to look like and for how long it would last. How much more crying would we have to face? I was getting a lot of help and support from my husband as well as my Listening Partners.

After a week or so there was no crying (!) at bedtime, but there were still some difficulties in falling asleep. What I tried to do then was to stand at the doorway and tell her some reassuring words and leave again. After a few days you could tell by the look in her eyes that her bed felt like a safe place to her, and she wouldn’t want to get out of it.

Today, a month after we started this process, my daughter falls asleep quietly and happily, and the quality of her sleep has improved significantly. She wakes up very relaxed and does not cry as she used to before.

This whole process helped me, and my partner, enjoy our evening once again. On top of that, we feel empowered in our ability to make changes in our family and move things forward. It reminded us that our role as parents is to lead our family and not get “trapped” by our kids’ behavior.

As for me, I feel that helping my daughter through this hurdle has allowed me to finally see her clearly with joy and vitality, without any filter of anger, guilt, or the need to go easy on her to compensate for the medical procedures she has had to go through. All I can see now is how proud I am of her and how much I love and admire her.

I would like to thank you from the bottom of my heart (as well as the three other hearts in my family) for this precious support that we are getting from you and from the support group you’re leading. This has made this whole process so doable, sensitive, and real. And thank you to all the moms in the group who are also a big part of this great gift!

Yes! I would like more free resources on helping my children sleep. Click here.

Ravid Aisenman AbramsohnRavid Aisenman Abramsohn, Certified Parenting by Connection Instructor in Israel

Staylistening with a Six-Month-Old Twin

I have a friend who has twin girls. Ever since they were born one of the twins (the second to be born) was labeled the more difficult one. She cried more than her twin sister, she ate less, and was not very easy to please. When they were about six months old, I was visiting the family, and when I held each of the girls in my arms, I could clearly see the difference in the way each of them looked at me. The older twin could look straight into my eyes and drink in my gaze, whereas her sister hardly made eye contact with me at all, and kept moving her gaze from one point to the other. I could tell that she was upset and stressed.

When it was time for her to sleep I volunteered to settle her, and she was clearly not going to fall asleep easily. I thought this would be a good opportunity for me to listen to her, and see if it would help to support her as she cried some of her upsets away. I showed her the bed, and she cried when she figured out that a nap was expected. As she cried, I listened and reassured her. 

Her mother soon came to try and sooth her with a bottle, then a pacifier, but she was not hungry and refused these distractions. I held her in my arms, offered gentle eye contact, and  told her, phrase by phrase, “You’re safe now. It’s O.K. I’m going to be here with you. You are a wonderful girl.” I wasn’t doing a lot of talking. Mostly, I held her gently, looked at her warmly and lovingly, and let her do the rest. She cried really hard, perspired, arched her back, and tightened her little muscles as she moved. I made sure that her mom came to the room off and on so her daughter could see that Mommy was still there. She kept crying hard like this for 30 minutes, and then for 10 more minutes she cried hard in spurts. She would calm down, and then cry a little bit more. At the end of those 40 minutes she fell asleep. I had to leave before she woke up.

My friend, the mother of the twins, called me later that evening to tell me in astonishment about the remarkable change she noticed in her younger twin’s behavior. She was very calm, smiled often (which she would rarely do before), and was mostly content. In the next few days, she was exceptionally responsive to everyone around her, including her twin sister, who had been constantly trying, unsuccessfully, to connect with her sister before.

My use of the listening tools started when my girls were 5 and 9, so I didn’t get to offer them Staylistening support when they were babies. I was really excited to see how this tool worked so beautifully with an infant. Although I’ve heard about it before, it was fascinating to notice that she needed someone to listen to her and then, to see the results for myself. 

You can learn more about Parenting by Connection in the Listening to Children booklet set.

Mommy Is A Silly Creature

The other day my oldest daughter (10) came home from school very tense. She was hot, tired and hungry, but there was also something else that was bothering her, and she wouldn’t say what. After I fed her and let her cool down a little, it was time for her to start doing her homework.

She is usually pretty good about getting her work done in an efficient manner. This time it was almost out of the question. She was growling at me and her younger sister, and looking for reasons to shout, quarrel and fight with the both of us. I could see that there was no easy way out of this one.

Somehow, and I can’t even recall why, I started to make very weird sounds and faces, and even weirder laughing noises. Those made her laugh really, really hard, which kept me going like this for another 15 minutes (which is highly unusual amount of silliness on my behalf!). I didn’t say a single word other than those weird sounds and faces. I could tell that this laugh of hers was not only out of amusement, but also her need to take some of the heavy load off, and at some stage I felt like she wanted her mommy back, and had enough of that strange looking and sounding ‘creature’.

After this session was over, my little daughter who was partly witnessing this asked for us to do it again, but my older one said: “No, I can’t, I have homework to do.” She went straight from there to her desk without any prompt from me, and managed to get all her work done.

In the evening right before bedtime, she was telling me a little bit more about her day, she still didn’t want to tell what was that one other thing that was bothering her, but she seemed to be much more calm about it, and I would probably hear about it in a later stage, as often happens with her. I must admit that this Play Listening was not the easiest thing for me to do. I am not usually a silly type of person. But I was amazed to see the affect it had on my daughter, and like always this is what kept me going.

Ravid Aisenman AbramsohnJoin Certified Instructor Ravid Aisenman Abrahmsohn in one of her classes and start making silly faces! Building Emotional Understanding Online starts May 7. She has limited spaces available. Reserve yours now.

Special Time Spills the Beans

One day my oldest daughter (11 at the time), had a friend over after school. I don’t usually approve of that since they have to finish their homework before they can play with friends, but both girls promised me they had very little homework, and they said they would finish it first thing. I gave in to that argument, and decided to give it a try.

When we first came home they had a snack, and then they were off to do their homework. After a short while they both said they had finished their homework, and went off to play. After the friend left, we had some time before dinner, and I felt like my daughter hadn’t had any Special Time in a couple of days, so I offered to do some. We had a short time together but she was mostly interested in the TV and not really connected to me. After our time was over, I went to the kitchen to start dinner preparations.

Daughter and mother prepare meal in kitchenAs I was making the food, she came and sat on the counter right next to me and said, “I’m such a bad girl. There you are doing all those nice things for me, and I always act terribly, not even thanking you, and lying to you all the time…” I looked at her as she was saying that, and told her that she is a great kid, and I love her a lot. I asked her gently if there was some more homework to be done, and she said, crying, that she hadn’t actually finished the homework she was working on with her friend. I told her that I know that she is a responsible kid, and that she could take care of her homework if she wanted to.

Even though we didn’t get very connected during our Special Time, she could sense my willingness, my love and the closeness that I was offering her. All of these made her feel uneasy with not saying the truth about her homework, but still she felt safe enough to step forward and say the actual truth. I could also feel how telling the truth, and crying about it, helped her feel much more calm and peaceful. Special Time really does build safety and closeness that last.

– Ravid Aisenman Abramsohn, Certified Parenting by Connection Instructor in Israel

You can read more about StayListening in the Listening to Children Series by Patty Wipfler.

– Certified Instructor Ravid Aisenman Abrahmsohn

Ravid Aisenman Abramsohn


Solving School Problems with Special Time

LISTEN IN as Parenting by Connection Trainer, Ravid Aisenman Abramsohn explains how she used Special Time to help her young daughter adjust to the demands of her new school experiences.

From a Hand in Hand parent teleseminar on Starting School Well, Fall 2012.

You can read more about Playlistening in the Listening to Children Series by Patty Wipfler.

– Join Certified Instructor Ravid Aisenman Abrahmsohn in one of her classes / teleseminars:

Ravid Aisenman Abramsohn

1) Building Emotional Understanding Online starting February 27. Register now.

Playlistening to Get Through the Morning Rush

(C) Chris Gilbert 2010

It was one of those mornings that are really hard to start. My youngest (6 at the time), was sleeping in more than usual, and I was also dragging myself around the morning routine. By the time she got up and I was ready, it was pretty tight time-wise. I knew if I rushed her to get ready, she would only get mad and we would probably be late for her school.

So, I decided to connect with her more playfully and hopefully get us all out of the door on time.

Instead of looking at the clock and saying: “It’s awfully late. Let’s get ready”, which would be my non-playful version, I pretended to be afraid of looking at the watch and asked her to stay with me and not leave the room.

We were both standing in the bathroom. I ‘fearfully’ tiptoed into the bedroom to get a glance at the watch. That got a lot of  laughter going for my daughter. Then we had a quick session of ‘catch and kiss’ because she did not stay in the bed room. All this time she asked me to ‘cry’ some more about the time and about her leaving me.

We did this once more. It lasted about 12 minutes in all. Only fifteen minutes were left to get her ready for school. Surprisingly enough, she got dressed in a swift, and even had enough time to sit and have breakfast. She was cheerful and calm.

Had I not chosen the playful path I believe we would have had a quarrel, with both of us getting frustrated about our needs not being met. We would have  hardly made it out of the house in 20 minutes, and there would be breakfast in the car. I think I’ll stick with the playful path!

– Ravid Aisenman Abramsohn, Certified Parenting by Connection Instructor in Israel

You can read more about Playlistening in the Listening to Children Series by Patty Wipfler.

– Join Certified Instructor Ravid Aisenman Abrahmsohn in one of her classes / teleseminars:

Ravid Aisenman Abramsohn

1) Building Emotional Understanding Online starting February 27. Register now.