Welcome to the ProSquad! Every week we'll be checking in with our crack team of experts to find answers to parenting's trickiest dilemmas and hottest issues. This week we hear from our sleep expert about toddler naps, and our work-life balance expert talks about managing distractions when you work at home.
Malia Jacobson is a sleep expert, writer, and the mom of two exceptionally well-rested kids. She has moderated a global sleep website, where she helped parents around the world resolve their children's sleep problems. Her articles about sleep and health topics appear regularly in over 30 parenting publications. She aims to illuminate the murky, misunderstood world of sleep for tired parents everywhere, empowering them with clear, evidence-based solutions and sound advice.
Help! My 3-year-old is waking up at 5 a.m. — what can I do?
First, the bad news: some children are simply wired to wake up early. Now for the good news: if the 5 a.m. wakeups are a recent development, they're probably just a phase. Happily, you can help the phase pass quickly.
First, keep in mind that overtiredness is the principal cause of waking too early. It's a vicious cycle: overtiredness contributes to early waking (because, paradoxically, overtired kids have a harder time staying sound asleep), and the early waking then causes more overtiredness. Excessive tiredness frequently stems from missed naps or too-late bedtimes. Try moving bedtime earlier by 20 to 30 minutes every night for a week.
Next, make sure that the bedroom environment isn't contributing to the problem; ensure that it's cool, dark, and quiet, with blackout curtains that block out early morning sun.
Finally, avoid exposing your early riser to bright light or feeding him breakfast right away — unless you want 5 a.m. wakeups to become permanent. Light exposure and mealtimes are two of the most powerful regulators of the biological clock. When he wakes early, encourage quiet playtime or reading in a darkened room until normal wake-up time. I offer more tips to combat early waking at my blog, Family In Progress.
Amy Hilbrich Davis answers our next question, one that many working parents ask. Davis is the mother of seven, founder/CEO of Inspiring Moms, and author of the award-winning Balance MAP. Her company helps parents achieve greater balance, success, and happiness in their family lives. Amy works with a number of Fortune 500 and Working Mother 100 Best Companies to increase employee engagement and productivity through greater work-life balance. Her award-winning Balance MAP is an online tool that creates customized action plans with the strategies and best practices to help moms reduce stress and take control of their busy lives.
How can work at home parents manage the distractions?
As you know, working at home isn't easy. On one hand, you want to create a thriving business, and on the other, a thriving family. No simple task, yet you can absolutely do it! Start off by giving yourself grace. Balancing work and family requires discipline and it's easy to get lost in the demands of both. Guilt comes from not feeling like you're doing either well because you are trying to do them at the same time. It's easy to fall into that trap, but don't!
Your first step is to minimize distractions. By that I mean, you cannot do both well at the same time. When it's family time, it's family time. Enjoy your children. Give them and your home 100% of your attention during this time. By doing that, you'll feel completely engaged and successful. And who doesn't want that? When it's time to focus on your business, focus on your business. This is easiest when your kids are sleeping (early morning, during nap time, or late night), out of the house (day care, school, or play date), or when a sitter is in charge, so you can work.
Sometimes you have to work when your kids are around and awake. Teach your kids how to play quietly right alongside you. Provide special "work bins" filled with crafts (crayons and paper), blocks, building toys, etc. The bins only come out when mom needs her little ones to play quietly. When you are on the phone, establish the rule that your kids are not to interrupt unless absolutely necessary. If that should happen, they are to come and hold your hand. When you have a natural break in your conversation, you will excuse yourself from your call and attend to their needs.
The beauty of your decision to work at home is that you have flexibility. Be deliberate and make the most out of this opportunity. Enjoy your freedom and your family. You'll be so happy you did!
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