Getting your kids to bed can be a nightly battle. Here are a few tips to make bedtime a more pleasant experience.
Dinner’s over, the sun’s going down, and your little one’s rubbing her eyes. It’s time for bed. Movies may make bedtime look picture perfect. You simply tuck your kids in bed, give them a kiss goodnight, turn out the light, and no sounds are heard until morning. Unfortunately, many parents find the opposite to be true and bedtime is anything but peaceful and easy. The kids cry, whine, and put up a fight. They’re hungry, thirsty, scared, need to pee, or have a sudden stomachache. It seems they’ll do anything to prolong the inevitable, making bedtime drag on for way too long.
Sound familiar? If bedtime at your house is a stressful event for kids and parents alike, you may benefit from the following advice.
Your child woke up earlier than usual and missed her nap so she’s should go right to sleep at bedtime, right? Not necessarily. An overly tired child has an especially difficult time settling down at night. When you’re extra tired your body produces more of the stress hormone cortisol, which excites and energizes you. A child who consistently fights bedtime may be sleep deprived. Try making bedtime half an hour earlier. Then stick with this time every night, whether it’s a weekday or weekend.
The hour or so leading up to bedtime should be screen-free and low-key. Watching a movie before bed may help a child calm down, but the bright light of the screen may prevent the sleep hormone melatonin from being released. Rather than watching a show, playing rowdy games, or listening to loud music before bed, kids can transition to sleep by doing quiet activities like reading books or taking a bath.
Routine, Routine, Routine
The importance of a nightly bedtime routine can’t be stressed enough. Children thrive most when they know what’s expected. Doing the same things at the same time every evening prepares a child mentally and physically for bed. The routine should last no more than 20 to 30 minutes and include things like having a small snack and drink, taking a bath, going potty, brushing teeth, cuddling, and reading a story. Stick to the routine even when your child’s begging for just one more story, one more drink, or one more hug.
Food and Drink
Plan for the kids to eat a healthy dinner at least an hour before bedtime. Eating too much right before lying down can make settling down for sleep difficult. Avoid sweets after dinner and don’t let your children drink caffeinated beverages within six hours of bedtime. After they’ve eaten a snack, sipped some water, and been tucked in, make it clear the kitchen is closed for business.
Kids who struggle with bedtime fears may benefit from hugging a beloved stuffed animal, soft blanket, or doll. These objects provide a child with a sense of security. Children may not feel as alone when they have something comforting to hold onto.
Once in Bed, Stay in Bed
It’s a tricky situation when kids sneak out of bed after being tucked in. Giving in to their demands, delaying bedtime, or giving them attention (whether positive or negative) is just what they want and they’ll keep coming back for more. Make it clear to your child when you leave their room that you don’t expect to see them until morning. If and when they appear out of bed, take them by the hand without speaking and lead them back to bed.