Today we are going to talk about how you can get your kids to love bedtime as much as you do. For a lot of parents, bedtime is the most stressful part of their day with their kids.
But the truth is, the reason kids usually stall on bedtime is that it’s often one of the only times of the day when they can really get your undivided attention. So they learn that the more they stall and argue, the more attention they get.
I know it may sound crazy, but when you create a new routine where children feel the same connection and attention they are craving without having to argue or stall, they will likely stop resisting.
And creating ease around bedtime has the potential to change a lot of things for your family.
It can actually become some of your most cherished quality time with your children, you will all get better rest, and your evenings can suddenly open up as a time to enjoy by yourself or with your partner.
Many of the families I have worked with have struggled with getting their kids to go to bed – you are not alone.
Whether their child is constantly stalling asking for something to drink or another snack or another hug, or if they are the type who won’t sleep alone in their own bed and the parents are dying to have a good night’s rest, or if they are the kind of kid who goes to bed just fine but then is up again every hour.
Bedtime really can be a major source of stress. There are so many components to having an easy and enjoyable bedtime in your home but today we are going to talk about just a few tips that will get you on your way!
When you think about creating an ideal evening routine there are a few things you need to remember…
First – Remember that an evening routine starts way before bedtime. At least 2 hours.
This means that for younger children, their evening routine basically starts right after dinner and even for older children there needs to be 2-3 hours of time before bed that basically consist of doing activities that are leading them into winding down for bed. Just put yourself in their shoes – think about how different it feels when you get into bed with your head spinning from checking emails, watching tv, having very emotionally stimulating conversations, or even being in bright rooms right before you go to bed. Then think about how it feels when you give yourself the chance to wind down – take a hot bath, drink tea or a cool glass of water, read a book, or take a walk.
Now, as adults, we might not always have the time and the freedom to devote this kind of time to winding down but for children it is essential. They are just learning how to wind their minds down for sleep and they need the support of a great routine to teach them how.
So your bedtime routine can consist of anything you want but remember that winding down is a process that takes a few hours, not a few minutes – especially for children!
Second – Be consistent!
An evening routine can consist of anything you want – although I encourage parents to avoid screens and stick with either outdoor activities or calming activities in the home after dinner, the way you choose to fill this time will totally depend on the age of your kids and your family’s lifestyle. The biggest thing to remember is that no matter how you choose to spend these cooling down hours – be really consistent!
So if after dinner you take a walk and then you have a bath, then stories, then bed whenever possible – don’t switch it up! There’s room for some variation here like maybe a bike ride instead of a walk but I encourage parents to wait until their routine is really established before they start making changes. In the beginning, be painfully consistent. Take the same loop on your walk, read the same book to little ones, have the same kind of tea, put on the same type of music. It may sound crazy but kids are incredibly in tune with their senses and they do really well with consistency. So when you give them the same sensory experience each evening, their bodies and their brain trigger them that it’s time to sleep.
Third – Create rituals
Bedtime is often such a stressful time that parents end up missing out on what can be some of the most enjoyable quality time possible with their kids. Bedtime is one of the only times of the day when little ones tend to be snuggly and calm and it’s really a time to enjoy. One way to get you and your kids looking forward to your evening time together is to create rituals. Whether it be a cup of tea together in the living room, singing a special song every night, or taking turns saying what you are grateful for and talking about your day – rituals put intention and attention into bedtime routines.
After a long day, you may be stressed, distracted, or tired. So infuse your evening routine with at least one thing that will force you to put everything else aside and really enjoy your kids. They will respond by looking forward to their bedtime because it means your undivided attention. Remember that one of the main reasons they argue and stall is just to get more of your attention in the first place. And they can feel when you are distracted!
It doesn’t have to be something that takes a long time, it can be a 5 minute ritual – it’s your undivided attention and the sanctioned time together that counts. And as they grow, they will come to cherish the memory of these times with you.
If you and your family are struggling with bedtime, don’t get down on yourself! Bedtime is one of the hardest parts of day to day life as a parent and I promise you every parent has struggled with it at some point. Getting down a healthy sleep life for your family can take time but it starts with a healthy evening routine. So remember – give your kids plenty of time to wind down, be consistent in your routine – especially in sensory triggers for your child, and bring ritual into your family’s evenings so your child gets plenty of connection and attention.