Bedtime in some families is a horror show. Parents end up yelling and kids end up crying. Everyone feels terrible, with parents feeling guilty, knowing they failed to handle the situation constructively. There are some steps that can be taken that could make bedtime a calm and happy time. It just takes some planning and some discussion with the family.
If your children are old enough to understand and to communicate, have a little family talk after dinner some night to discuss bedtime protocol. In a friendly way, you can tell the kids that you feel things aren’t working at bedtime and ask them how they’d like to see bedtime unfold. Really listen to them; they don’t like the uproar either. Kids have good ideas and will likely offer some worthwhile solutions. When it’s your turn, talk about how much sleep they need and what time they have to get up in the morning. Then, everyone can input their suggestions on how much time it takes to wash faces and hands (or have a bath), brush teeth, put pajamas on etc. When the bedtime hour has been established, discuss a way of giving them a heads-up beforehand. Do they want you to let them know ahead of time that it’s almost bedtime? Let them tell you how much warning they want. In some families a timer is set. When the timer goes off, it’s bedtime. The timer is then the boss, not Mom or Dad.
You must plan on spending some time with the kids at bedtime and not just want them gone so you can get on with your plans for the evening. This is hard, especially if you’re tired from your day and need some downtime. If you consider it an investment in your future relationship with them going into and beyond their teenage years, you’ll make the time and find that you really enjoy it. You can read a story to younger ones and end up with a talk about the day and its ups and downs. As they get older and don’t want a story, the bedtime talk continues to be enjoyable for them and for you. You’re planting seeds for communication for a lifetime.
It’s a good idea to start reading to your kids at bedtime when they’re very small. Bedtime then becomes a pleasant time, with a story and some cuddles with Mom or Dad. Kids look forward to a book that’s beyond their own reading level and you can read a chapter or so every night. This settles them down and they slip peacefully into sleep.
If you have toddlers who are putting up a fuss, you could ask them how they’d like to go upstairs, offering a choice, for example, of singing the ABCs or counting the stairs. Then, ask which leg they want to put into their pajamas first. This makes getting ready for bed more fun and they look forward to story time afterward. Giving kids some input always makes things more friendly.
I’m available to help you with your questions and to support you as you make changes in the bedtime routine or in any other challenging situation you might have. Let’s talk – I’m just a click away.
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