If bedtime is a constant battle of wills between you and your children, you’re going to want to read this! I am going to share with you a few secrets which have worked wonders for us during bedtime.
1. Stick to a fixed time for bed. Every.Single.Day
Yes, on weekends too! Well, maybe you can skip it on Saturdays, but for rest of the nights choose a time for bed to suit your child’s needs and stick to it religiously. This gives your child’s biological clock a chance to align with a fixed time daily rather than trying to adjust randomly to odd hours. This is important not just from a sleep perspective but also for your child’s general health and well being. So, if you want to implement just a single tip from this list, try this one and see the difference.
2. Have a gap of 45 – 60 minutes between dinner and bedtime.
If the gap is less, then your child will be too full and have difficulty falling asleep. If the gap is longer, then he may get hungry again and you will need to give him a snack and brush his teeth blah-blah all over again! So, if you are a lazy parent like me then stick to the optimum gap of approximately one hour between dinner and bedtime.
3. Give your child 15 minutes advance notice.
If you implement #1 religiously, then over time your child will automatically start feeling sleepy 10-15 minutes before bedtime, but it is always a good idea to give him a heads up because a sleepy child equals a touchy one. You never know what will piss him off, especially if he is a spirited one!
4. Ditch the afternoon nap (when your child is ready).
I took ages to let go of my son’s afternoon naps. But ever since I have, bedtime has been far less of a struggle than it used to be. So go ahead and let your child ditch the afternoon nap when he is good and ready. Children, unlike adults, are not conditioned (yet) to choose other pursuits over and above sleep. So, if they need a nap, they will choose it (maybe not actively, but you will have the tell-tale signs of tiredness, yawning, crankiness etc.). If not, then forcing a nap will only make bedtime a struggle. When it comes to afternoon naps, let your child be the boss.
5. Use an easy-to-follow short bedtime routine.
Do not have a detailed, excessively long bedtime routine because:
- You will have problems following it through every day and will definitely be exhausted by the end of it.
- On the days when someone else has to take over, they will struggle with it.
- Prolonging a bedtime routine may awaken a sleepy child instead of getting him to fall asleep quickly.
For us, the below routine seems to work the best:
- Brush teeth.
- Use the bathroom.
- Drink water (I insist on it!).
- Change into PJs.
- Hop onto the bed, cuddle, and talk quietly for five minutes.
- Put on some music (only instrumental, no vocals).
- Kiss and say goodnight then walk out the door.
6. Don’t forget their physical environment.
- For a good night’s sleep, sleeping in a darkened room is a must. Of course, some younger children are afraid of the dark so it is a good idea to have a night light on, or to keep the door slightly ajar and let some light in from the corridor.
- Make sure your child is not too hot or too cold.
- For the sensitive kids who can’t stand scratchy, itchy tags, extra items on the bed, are fussy about pillow positions etc. – make sure they’re comfortable before leaving them.
7. Avoid over-stimulating activities just before bedtime.
Anything that excites your child could turn out to be over-stimulating and a roadblock to a good night’s sleep if it is just before bedtime. Be it watching cartoons, playing a game, running around or even reading a book, if it wakes your child up instead of settling him down, skip it. In case you are wondering why I have a “no books at bedtime” rule, it is only meant for kids like my son. He gets so excited to read that he simply wills his sleepiness away just so I would read him another book and then another…and by the time we are done, he is wide awake! So for “excitable” kids like my son, avoiding books during bedtime and sticking to music, works. The music should be instrumental, not vocal as it may have the opposite effect.
8. Keep your exit simple and consistent.
Your exit has to be simple, honest and consistent. Once you’ve completed the bedtime routine, kiss him goodnight and leave. If he asks you to stay, tell him about the chores you need to complete before your bedtime, do another round of cuddles and kiss and tell him that you will be back to check on him once you are finished. Then move on. Don’t linger. If you do it consistently and if you have followed all the above tricks, chances are your child will be fast asleep when you come back to check on him in five minutes.
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This post was syndicated with permission to BonBon Break Media LLC.