Naptime and bedtime are simultaneously the best and worst parts of the day around here. The best part: they are sleep and I get a break. The worst: getting them to actually go to sleep.
Now that summer is over for us, and school is starting in just a few days, we have been working extra hard to get everything back on track and so that the kids can settle into their new school year routine BEFORE school starts.
The one thing I have learned through all of this is that I was not alone. For some parents, getting their toddler, young child(ren) or even tweens and teens to sleep is probably a challenge that they experience on a nightly basis. The whining, bargaining, and full out tantrums are people just as much a part of your child’s part-time routine as brushing their teeth.
One thing is for certain, this is just a part of life meant to be grown out of with time. For others, tackling the issue of enforcing bedtimes have been forged into a science, almost.
If you are having a particularly hard time getting your little one to bed every night, try incorporating these six things into your daily and nightly ritual.
This was a great tip that I actually learned from my pediatrician. It’s important to start your child’s bedtime routine long before they actually head to bed. For us, it starts about an hour before bedtime. We start by turning off all televisions and calming the girls down. Some days this can be difficult, as my husband thinks it cool to play with the kids before bed. However, all this does is seem to rile them up and get their adrenaline pumping. Everything from the music to our voices remains calm and relaxed. We are even sure to let them know every so often that bedtime is coming as to minimize the tantrums when it’s time for them to actually get in the bed.
For our older children, turning off all devices and electronics and creating a soothing environment and even encouraging them to read helps their brains to unwind after a long and busy day.
Routines aren’t easy, especially if you have multiple kids and a full-time job outside of the home. But it’s important that we take our children’s need for sleep into account when we plan activities. I know this isn’t always possible, but getting a routine established early on or ask quick as possible, is key to alleviating as much bedtime stress as possible, for both you and your child.
Create routines that will have everyone on auto-pilot. Try not to deviate much if you can, or add in new things every day unless its absolutely necessary.
It’s important to remember that changing your child’s sleep schedule or ending the bedtime battle will not happen in one night. Keep your expectations realistic and your patience high. Just continue to stay the course. Some nights may go well and others may not, but don’t lose it when things don’t go as planned, and most importantly don’t give up.
Make their environment comfortable
You want to make their room as comfortable as possible. A couple of my children are very hot natured; so I try and keep their bedrooms at a comfortable temperature (74 degrees), and I make sure that they have their favorite stuffed animal as well. Another quirk that one of my kids has; she loves to have her blanket thrown in the dryer for a few minutes so it can be toasty when she gets in the bed. While it’s a strange little quirk, I try to make sure I do this because it helps her to relax.
Keep Nap Time
Your first instinct when your child does not sleep at night may be to cut out their middle of the day naps all together. While this sounds like a great idea, in theory, it’s probably not the best. Lack of sleep may cause your child to be cranky throughout the day, which means that temper tantrum will more than likely increase as well. For some kids (like my youngest), this causes them to actually have higher adrenaline levels in the evening time, which makes it harder for them to go to bed at night. Instead of completely stopping naps altogether, try shortening their naps. If they normally take two and half hour naps, shorten it to one hour. Of course, you could always use the extra hour during the day, but wouldn’t it be better to have it in the evening? If your child is in daycare and you don’t have the option to shorten it, try starting a wind-down process as soon as you get in the house. Relaxing activities, no television, and dim lights are a great way to get your child into the mindset that it’s going to be bedtime soon.
Love of impromptu dance parties, 80’s cartoons, and horizontal life pauses (aka naps); Natasha Brown is a stay at home mom of 4 kids, and wife to one lucky guy! In her spare time, she is co-editor of Grits & Grace, as well as editor for The Mother Hustler Blog and Creative Director for the Mother Hustler podcast.