(Editor’s note: Lima shares some night-time sanity-saving strategies. Thanks Lima!)
Bed-time can be battle-time for many parents. Settling your children down with a nice bedtime story seems a simple enough idea in principle. But when your child has dragged themselves into the living room for the umpteenth time, insisting they don’t feel tired, and can they ‘have a glass of water’, those cozy ideals, and hard-headed practice, seem a world apart.
If your young children are turning your evenings into a long tussle of wills, then rather than trying to sort things out at bedtime, you need to go back to basics. What is it that is keeping your child so restless? And what actions can you take to help them beat their bedtime blues?
The answers actually start a long way back from the moment the bedroom curtains are drawn. They lie with the building of a balanced routine – to both day and night – for you and your child. The banishing of nighttime blues is not beyond the grasp of parents ready to engage fully with the problem.
The best place to start is to think about where to put that big dividing line, between a busy day and a restful sleep. That’s not only for your children, but also for you and your partner. To do that, you need an idea of what amount of sleep children of different ages need. Infants need at least 14 hours sleep, spread throughout their day; a 2-year old child will be down to 12 or so hours sleep; whereas a 6-year old can have under 11 hours. Obviously those times will need adjusting for the inevitable differences between kids, but they’re a good starting point.
Now plan your typical routine around that number – starting with the time your child needs to be woken in the morning. Then work backwards, so the routine is built around the sleep-time. That routine will be taken up by some immovables, like work and school-time pickups.
But when working out a reasonable bedtime, don’t try and force the creation a protected ‘adult time’ zone in the day. We all need that as parents, but you need to focus on the child’s needs first. The rest will then hopefully slot into place, once your child learns to become settled. Having a sense of ‘entitlement’ to a child-free period can create tension that feeds conflict, stress and sleeplessness.
Perhaps the most important thing to elbow into their routine is exercise. Your body needs a good workout, to help ease out those accumulated muscular stresses and so relaxed at bedtime. And that definitely applies as much to kids as to adults. Although they do usually have some running around – at kindergarten or in the playground – the more exercise the merrier.
So try and get an extra activity into your day-plan – late afternoon is best. It could be a walk one day, a trip to the playground another or a swim the next. A bit of variety and flexibility will be good for both of you. And not only will their bodies benefit, that quality time with you will help ease feelings of insecurity, and reduce the need to grab your attention at bed-time.
Then you need to create the right props for bedtime itself, and that means a strict routine. If you can build up a number of steps that lead inevitably bed-wards, and promote a sense of winding down, your child will be more acquiescent when it comes to turning the lights off.
Have a turn off time for television and games consoles, that’s at least one hour before their bed time; and certainly don’t allow them to have such powerful stimulants in their own rooms!
Finally, set aside half an hour of your time for putting your child to bed – and don’t rush it. Follow a simple sequence of getting them ready being changed for bed, having supper, cleaning their teeth and then reading a story. If you follow that exact same routine each evening, the pointers towards going to bed are firmed up for your child. Once those markers are laid down consistently, with time, those bedtime blues will be banished for good.
This article is written by Lima who is a fitness enthusiast & owns a website offering free fitness tips at BuildMuscle.org
Earnest Parenting: tips for parents who want peaceful bedtimes.
Photo provided courtesy of egg on stilts via Creative Commons license, some rights reserved.