11 Healthy Ways to Help Your Child Get to Sleep During Your Separation Update 05/2024

Sadness, anxiety, remorse, mistrust, bittersweet, relief is just a few of the sentiments that might accompany divorce. You and your ex-partner have just gone through something incredibly draining — and expensive. This might be just as distressing for your children as it was for you.
As one of the one million children whose parents divorce each year, know that you are not alone in the difficulties that come with a breakup. Sleep deprivation can make the emotional toll of a divorce unmanageable because of psychological and social anguish. Even so, we’re here to assist you.
When parents divorce, the repercussions on their children can last a lifetime, and numerous challenges can surface at any age. Symptoms of psychosomatic illness may result from feelings of unloved, grief, and blame in children.
It’s not uncommon for children to believe that they are to blame for their parent’s divorce, and they may want to bring their parents back together in order to help them deal with the loss of a two-parent household. If a youngster is missing a significant day or holiday, their grief may be amplified. Many aspects of their lives, such as their living and financial situations, their relationships with extended and immediate family, their school, and their routines, may change.
A child’s age can have an impact on their reaction to a divorce, but parents’ handling of the situation can also have a significant impact.


While divorce may seem to have little effect on a baby’s development because they lack a comprehensive understanding of what is going on around them, surprisingly, they can detect that something is amiss. There is nothing unusual about your infant becoming more irritable, crying more frequently, or having separation anxiety.
Children whose parents have separated or divorced may have difficulties settling down and staying asleep at night. As the American Academy of Pediatrics points out, children’s gastrointestinal problems are quite prevalent.

Toddlers and Younger Kiddos

More than we think, children up to the age of four or five pick up on a lot more than babies do. Children in single-parent households may be more prone to acting out, being overly clinging, and having more nightmares than their peers. Older people may even blame themselves for marriage difficulties and dissatisfaction.

School-age Kids

Children at school, like younger youngsters, are more likely to experience temper tantrums, mood swings, and outbursts of violence. Children who engage in these practices may experience sleep disturbances and nightmares that linger.
Divorced children are more likely to experience feelings of rejection and fractured loyalty as a result of juggling two households or one missing parent. Separation anxiety has been linked to worse academic achievement in school-aged children.


Teenagers whose parents are divorcing tend to mature more quickly and become more self-reliant. Relationships may suffer as a result of kids’ inability to deal with the fact that their parents are in need of help.
When parents divorce, teenagers are more likely to have low self-esteem, substance misuse, and poor academic performance, as well as mental health issues such as depression, sexual misconduct, and violence. As a result of the increased rest requirements of adolescence, sleep disruptions and disorders are more likely to occur.

Dreams and Nightmares

Is there anything in your life that you’ve ever fantasized about? I know I’m not the only one who wakes up with recurring nightmares that represent my worst fears.
At Rochester Institute of Technology (RIT), Roger Harnish is a psychology professor.
According to research, “many of our dreams appear to be about our unfinished business, especially our emotionally unresolved business.”
Regardless of why we dream, it is certain that our lives are often reflected in them. This may explain why youngsters (and adults) who are going through a difficult time have more ominous nightmares than usual. According to the Mayo Clinic, nightmares are most prevalent in youngsters between the ages of 3 and 6, and they are often induced by stress and anxiety.
It is also possible that children of divorce experience more frequent nightmares as a result of sleep deprivation, which is less common for children in a two-parent household. Having trouble falling asleep due to nightmares isn’t the only problem; it’s especially troublesome for young children.
If your child is having nightmares on a regular basis, you should talk to their pediatrician.

Stress-related Sleep Disorders

Sleep disorders can develop in youngsters who are under a lot of stress. The following is a list of some of the most prevalent illnesses that can be brought on by a stressful environment, along with some associated symptoms. The fact that your child is showing some of these symptoms does not necessarily mean that they have a condition; instead, you should consult with their doctor to acquire an accurate diagnosis.


It’s difficult for me both to get to sleep and stay asleep.
Among the possible signs and symptoms are:
  • Bedtime is a struggle for this child.
  • Exhausted throughout the day.
  • Feelings can change at any moment.
  • Inability to maintain concentration for long periods of time.
  • Depression.
  • Aggression.

Sleep-onset Association Disorder

Behavior insomnia in children where they associate sleep with specific stimuli and have difficulty sleeping without these stimuli is known as a type of behavioral insomnia.
Among the possible signs and symptoms are:
  • A baby who wakes up in the middle of the night.
  • Without a certain environment, such as a car, nursing, or being rocked, the baby is unable to feel secure.

While asleep, a person can get out of bed and stroll around the room. This is known as somnambulism.
Among the possible signs and symptoms are:
  • Throughout the day, I was feeling drained.
  • During the night, I’m plagued with nightmares.
  • A hard time getting out of bed during an episode.
  • Sleepwalking, I’ve noticed some odd behavior.
  • After waking up, I’m confused.

Nightmare Disorder

Dreams that cause you to wake up in fear, anxiety, or discomfort.
Among the possible signs and symptoms are:
  • Nightmares that occur on a regular basis.
  • Sleep disturbances on a regular basis.
  • Inability to operate during the day, as well as tiredness.
  • The fear of the dark at night, or the terror of going to sleep.
  • There are a lot of pressing issues.

Is Co-sleeping a Bad Idea?

Parents frequently turn to co-sleeping when faced with bedtime difficulties, particularly sleep disorders. The habit of sharing a bed is a contentious one, and it varies widely among cultures. The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) and other studies have concluded that sharing a bed with a kid, especially an infant is dangerous.
Co-sleeping isn’t limited to sharing a bed; other options include sleeping in separate beds in the same room or transporting infants in sidecars.
Co-sleeping can be done safely, and as your child gets older, the hazards reduce. In fact, the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommends that parents keep their children in the same room for the first six months of their lives.
Co-sleeping can help a child who is having difficulty sleeping by keeping them near to you, but it might be tough to sleep if you aren’t there every night or if you share custody. In the end, you are the one who knows best for yourself and your child.

Tips for Coping at Bedtime

Getting a youngster to sleep when they’re struggling with life-altering events can be tough. A good night’s sleep is essential to your child’s ability to function and cope with their day-to-day challenges, even when they are living in two different households. Make your nights a little easier with these suggestions.

Expect an Adjustment Period

It’s expected that your child’s sleep would be disrupted as a result of the many changes taking place in his or her life. Don’t be alarmed if you notice some regressions in your child’s conduct. Children who used to suck their thumbs may do it again, resulting in bedwetting, night terrors, and other behavioral problems.
As a result of their anxiety, individuals are more likely to wake up frequently during the night and have trouble falling asleep. Insomnia can develop under the most difficult of conditions. Routine disruptions like vacations or weekend trips to the other parent’s house can set off similar reactions in certain kids. If you’re worried about how your child’s adjusting or how long it will take them, you might want to bring up your concerns to their doctor.

Work with Your Ex

A divorced or soon-to-be divorcee is likely to have a strained relationship with their ex. Having children in the mix might make things more difficult because they require regular contact with both parents in order to develop a healthy bond. Having a game plan with your ex is the greatest approach to ease the transition.
Emotional pain and behavioral difficulties might be caused by parental disagreement if you don’t get your priorities straight as a couple. According to one study, youngsters respond better to consistent punishment, acceptance, and affection from parents, and a schedule that is comfortable for them.
If the issue of custody is still being debated, be fair in your time estimates, and if an agreement has been reached, make sure to adhere to it. It’s inevitable that plans will change and that you will have to make adjustments. This might be upsetting, but try to retain a positive attitude about it. Texting or emailing maybe your best option because you have the time to compose a thoughtful response rather than impulsively reacting to a message.
When it comes to helping children adjust to a new normal, a team effort may be the most crucial aspect. To that end, the advice provided below should be used to its best potential.

Avoid Venting in Front of Your Kids

For individuals going through a divorce, this is a difficult one. It is common for people to express their feelings of frustration, anger, and despair when they are in the midst of a breakup. Your spouse is most likely the origin of these intense feelings, which puts your children in an awkward position.
Your youngster may have conflicting feelings of affection and resentment, and they may think they must choose one or the other. It’s best to limit your ranting in front of your kids if those relationships were already healthy before the divorce. Evidently, simply letting your frustrations out doesn’t do much good.

Agree on a Sleep Routine

Your child is no exception to this rule. Routines are important when it comes to bedtime; research shows that having a ritual before bed improves the quality of a child’s sleep.
Children may have a difficult time adjusting to a new environment if their parents’ daily routines are altered or nonexistent. Once a nighttime routine has been established, it’s best to keep it as consistent as possible. A simple bath, PJs, a story, and a bed is all that are required.
Anything that works for both parents can be used; just make an effort to follow the same routine every night.

Create Similar Spaces, Buy Duplicate Toys

If you’ve ever been in a situation like this, you know that your child is about to fall asleep when they realize that their cherished stuffed animal is missing. A child’s attachment to stuff and what they consider to be theirs is totally normal. Children might be particularly difficult to put to sleep when they are in an unfamiliar setting, such as that of their parent’s home.
Try to make their sleeping areas as comparable as possible in order to ease this issue. A sound machine, nightlight, and security blanket should be available at both ends of the bed if the child has them in one location. Most people, regardless of age, do not sleep well in an unfamiliar environment, so making your child’s room as familiar as possible will help.

Consider Counseling

You, your ex-partner, and/or your children can benefit from counseling even if you, your ex-partner, and/or your children appear to be doing well. It is not uncommon for young children, especially those who have not yet learned how to express their emotions, to benefit from counseling sessions. Counseling with your child can improve your relationship and give you a better understanding of their point of view.
The stress of a divorce is sufficient reason to understand confusing sentiments and seek the help of a medical professional; there is nothing “wrong” with you or your child to do so.

Talk it out with your co-parent. 

I understand that taking the first step is frequently the most difficult, but no matter how you feel about the parent of your child, you must work together for your child’s sake. Learn how to speak with your ex about your child, their well-being, and the specifics of their nighttime sleep patterns. Discuss your child’s sleep patterns with your co-parent. You and your child should come to an agreement on bedtime rituals and sleeping arrangements so that your youngster is more likely to stick to them.

Communicate with your child.

Now that you and your co-parent have devised a strategy, it’s time to share it with your child (ideally, together)! Your recent divorce or separation may be leading your child to experience an overabundance of feelings. While this may be the case, everyday life may still be causing them stress (new sitters, a new school, normal developmental leaps, etc). Reassuring your child that everything will be fine, even when they are young, may frequently be accomplished by just talking to them about all the things that are going on in their lives. Keep an open line of communication and never criticize your child’s parent in front of them. To put it another way, it doesn’t help at all and merely creates a rift in your child’s relationship with you. Assuring your children that you and their other parents will always be there for them. In the midst of a lot of upheavals, reassure them that they can count on you to be there for each other.

The same safe sleep environment should apply in both homes: 

  • To keep the light from coming in from the windows, use room-darkening shades, heavy drapes, or mini-blinds. If you want a peaceful night’s sleep, make the room absolutely dark!
  • Noise in the background. Background noise, such as a fan or a baby’s crib soother, masks errant noises in the home or neighborhood. It can also be used as a sleep timer in the nursery, as it emits a soothing sound when it’s time to turn in.
  • In a cozy cradle or bed. Comfortable sleeping conditions are essential for your child. In terms of convenience and safety, the crib should be free of any loose objects before a baby is placed within.
  • A high-quality video display. It’s critical that your baby’s monitor emits as little light as possible, as this can easily agitate him.
  • The use of a sound monitor works just as well if you’re used to using it. A child’s room or cot should be child-proofed.
  • They will be able to lift themselves out of the crib as they grow. The crib should be at least 5 feet away from any other objects when this milestone occurs. Things can be brought into the crib by your infant if he or she is able to reach them. Before a big event like this, make sure the house is childproofed. The best thing you can do is to be cautious rather than sorry.

Create a new bedtime routine for both homes. 

When it comes to establishing a new sleep regimen for your child, you and your partner must work together. It makes a huge difference in your child’s sleep if both parents follow the same pattern.
Work your way up from there by setting a specific time for your youngster to be in bed with the lights out. If your child’s bedtime is 7 p.m., prepare dinner at 5:30 p.m., take a bath at 6:15 p.m., get into pajamas, read a book, and turn off the lights at 6:45 p.m. Both houses should follow this schedule!
For parents who are already living apart, their child may lose the opportunity to say goodnight to both parents. Make an effort to have a quick phone or video chat with your co-parent at night, if it’s possible to do so. When it comes to sleep rituals, it doesn’t matter if you’re a night owl or prefer a more laid-back approach.

Strive for consistency. 

Babies and toddlers require parents who are responsive to their needs in a consistent, loving, and attentive way. According to recent findings, the regularity with which children go to bed has just as much of an impact on their brain development as does the total amount of hours they get each night. Confidence is built via consistency! Moreover, if you and your partner are on the same page when it comes to your child’s sleep, you’ll be raising a healthy, emotionally secure youngster for years to come.
Keep the schedule you and your co-parent established as much as possible even if things don’t go as planned or if you and your co-parent have conflicts. When it comes to the sleep habits of your child, even if you and your co-parent don’t agree on every detail, communicate what you’ve observed. Be sure to record details like how long it took them to fall asleep and what their nightly routine was like in a sleep diary to help you better understand your child’s slumber patterns. Your co-parent will appreciate knowing how your child has been doing when they spend the night with you. Hire a sleep consultant in this situation so that you can ensure that both families are adhering to a consistent sleep schedule! This may make it easier for your co-parent to keep your child’s nighttime routine when he or she moves to their home.


Divorce is a trying time for everyone involved, including the children. Sleep, as well as mental and physical health, may suffer as a result. Taking a few safeguards can make this time easier for everyone, even if it is just temporary.
Take it easy on yourself and your children. Everyone is going through a difficult time right now, but things will get better once a new pattern is established.

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