Bedtime for kids can be as dreadful for parents as it is for them.
The begging, whining and crying can make parents want to throw in the towel and let the kids stay up all night while we go to sleep. But there is a solution. Try adding these 7 essentials steps to your child’s routine and enjoy more peace and ease at bedtime.
Why is this so hard?
First, let’s try to understand why it’s hard for kids to fall asleep in the first place.
Children sense the distance, however small, when we try to put them asleep in another room and they react accordingly.
Many cultures around the world do not have children sleep alone in their own bed and room out of sheer necessity. But in Western culture, we ask our children to get over the uncomfortable feeling of separation and adapt to our societal norm. On top of that, there are some activities that make it harder to calm down at night such as lack of time in the sun during the day, eating in the evening, screen time or physical activity before bed.
What to do instead?
#1 Get them used to having a bedtime routine when they are young.
This routine will evolve and change as they mature but they will always have a bedtime routine even as adults. As a small child, you will brush their teeth for them until you can trust that they can do it on their own but having clean teeth before bedtime will be a constant throughout their life.
#2 Set a bedtime.
Keeping a diary of when your child naturally gets sleepy will help you understand his/her natural rhythms. We need to understand when they first get tired so that we don’t introduce an activity that could wind them up. Waiting for them to get sleepy is a setup for a level 10 tantrum. Instead learn their energy pattern, so you can avoid introducing stimulation that doesn’t let them wind down.
#3 Consistency is key.
The benefits of consistency are numerous. The predictability gives children a sense of safety and having a replicable routine promotes learning and self-sufficiency.
#4 Simple routines work best.
Make sure that the routine is age appropriate. For example, a four year old could be told: Go change into your pajamas, pick out a book for me to read to you and meet me in the bathroom to brush your teeth. The instructions are clear, simple and few enough that they could remember them.
#5 Use a security object or ritual to help with separation anxiety.
The beloved blankie or teddy bear is cherished for a good reason. These security objects are a great surrogate to help kids transition away from sleeping with you to sleeping on their own. If your child is scared of the dark or monsters in the closet, a “prayer for protection” or a blessing to help them feel safe.
#6 Let them feel in control.
By letting them pick the book, or which pajamas to wear, or which stuffed toy they want to sleep with, they will have a greater sense of ownership of the routine and will encourage self-sufficiency.
#7 Keep it Simple.
Make the routine simple and be consistent. Simple so they can learn and consistent so they can depend on the regularity. Like how the sun rises in the morning and sets in the evening, children need to understand that going to sleep is part of being human and natural.
A good bedtime routine with the goal of being learning and self-sufficiency will pay off in spades.
No parent wants to be at the mercy of their kid’s energy pattern so creating a routine that is simple and predictable will teach your child a valuable lesson in self-care while preserving your sanity.