Is this the phrase you hear from your child – when it is clearly late by the clock on the wall – and their grumpy, reactionary response to a call for bedtime tells you that he or she is in fact VERY tired? In our family our daily schedules are full, and if we want to spend time together, sleep tends to fall on the later side. I have always been thankful that my daughter sleeps well through the night and generally wakes up on her own; though I have found that having a good bedtime routine helps keep nighttime fuss to a minimum. The younger your child is when starting a bedtime routine, the more quickly the habits can be set into their brains. The goal is to have your kids fall to sleep on their own without you having to lie next to them or rock them to sleep.
Here is a short list of guidelines to follow:
- Stop or reduce physically and mentally stimulating activities 1 hour (or more depending on the child) before bed. Instead, have your child read, draw, or play with their toys in a quiet place. I know it is not recommended for them to watch TV during this time, but in our house, if it is something she’s not particularly interested in, it can have a sedative-like effect. If we are calm then she calms down. That does not mean let them fall asleep in front of the TV (though I am sometimes guilty of this after a long day). You still want to make sure they are awake when you start their sleepy-time routine.
- Bedtime routines vary depending on what works best in your family and the age of your child. Very often a bath is a perfect activity because it is relaxing. Even if bath time is not included, make sure they put on their pajamas, brush their teeth, use the potty and wash their face at a set time.
- Next, it is a good idea to help them unwind by talking with them and reading a bedtime story (or 3 as the case may be). Often my daughter tries to stretch her ‘just before bed time’ by ignoring my reading and instead starts jumping on the bed or playing around. I remind her that I am going to continue reading and when I’m done, I will leave the room whether she listened to the story or not. That always seems to get her to lie back down and listen.
- After the book – fix their covers, kiss them goodnight, wish them sweet dreams (or whatever you do) and leave the room. Many children have a favorite blanket or stuffed animal that gives them comfort while falling asleep. This is okay unless they are infants in which case it can be a safety hazard. Fans can be a nice white noise if there is still too much noise and activity in the house, but try to stay away from leaving any music on. I’ve known too many people that can’t fall asleep unless the TV or radio is on. This is not a habit that you want to nurture. There may be some crying, but unless is seems excessive for a long period of time – let it happen. If you run in every time your child starts crying, he or she will continue to do it.
Don’t give up – Yes, it can be painful in the short-term, but in long run you will set your child up for healthy nighttime habits. Be sure they get enough sleep between their night sleep and their naps to enable them to think clearly and recharge their cells.