I know that the word “bedtime” strikes fear to many an adult heart. Bedtime needs for children in the various energetic stages of development are quite different. For example, an infant in the earth stage needs physical and emotional closeness. This is the stage of tangibles—needs felt and needs met. After nine months in the womb, an infant is used to constant physical and emotional connection. They have no concept of the word “alone” or that they are separate from the womb in which they have resided. They continue to need your closeness, your physical presence as you help lay the foundation for future stages. Infants need to experience the world as a safe place where physical and emotional needs are responded to and met. Hence, this will require geographically close sleeping arrangements and a willingness to feed, change, or cuddle your infant during the night.
Children in the water stage of development (ages 15 mos to 3 years) are beginning to move away from their parents on the watery currents of independence. When playing with peers, a child at this age will drift away from parents, play for awhile and then return for encouragement or support. The same will be true at nighttime. A small bed or crib situated in a place where your child can easily see you is extremely helpful at this stage. When your child awakes in the night, not only can they see you across the room, but you can offer the added reassurance of your voice. Over time as you begin to move their bed further away and in the direction of their own room, just your voice will be enough to settle them down and back to sleep. Children who startle awake looking for parents every few seconds, are children who have experienced abrupt departures and isolation before they are ready.
Bedtime as experienced through the fire stage (ages 4-10) is really about learning to turn the “burner” down at the end of the day to a quiet and steady flame. After a day spent in fire activities, a longer transition is needed for the child to turn off the mind, feel the quietness within their bodies and relax. Conversely, in the morning it takes a fire stage child longer to rev up their engines and begin their days. Slow and extended transition times are needed at both ends of the day.
Understanding your child’s unique needs through each stage will help you adjust your expectations. When what you expect and what you experience are at odds, frustration can take root. Learning to read, ride a bike or play the violin are all skills children acquire over time. Similarly, learning to sleep alone is a process. Parents who understand this are realistic at bedtime, for they know what to expect.