My 9 year old son normally falls asleep on his own and stays asleep. After his first three years when he almost never slept through the night, I am very careful not to ruin this! So we say good night to him and leave the room. He normally spends some time playing quietly and then falls asleep on his own. He always has his lights off when he’s playing in his room, he usually just plays with some cars on his bed.
Recently however, it has been taking him longer to fall asleep. This is the last week of school, so I suspect that may be some of the cause. The past few days he has also been crankier than normal, and last night he got quite frustrated that he couldn’t fall asleep. So tonight I laid in bed with him for a few extra minutes and rubbed his head. He was nice and calm when I left and fell asleep shortly after. Tomorrow is the last day of school, so chances are tomorrow night I will not do this. I want him to get back used to being able to fall asleep totally on his own. I may check on him a little more often than normal to remind him to relax and try to sleep though.
Sometimes our kids do need some extra help. And it’s okay to give it to them! Just because you have worked with your child to fall asleep on their own, doesn’t mean that every once in awhile they cannot fall asleep in your arms. This is especially true if they are sick or if they are going through something in their lives that is causing them stress or excitement. The key is to go back to your normal routine as quickly as possible. If they are old enough, you can let them know why you are changing the rules and when they will go back to normal.
Another reason why you may want to do something like I did, is if your child has gotten into an overtired cycle. This was definitely the case with my son. He was overtired at bedtime and that was probably causing him to have more trouble falling asleep. It may seem backwards, but when we are overtired, it is harder for us to fall asleep, and we are more likely to wake more frequently during the night and even earlier in the morning. It can certainly become a vicious cycle.