For our family it seems the bedtime routine has varied over the years from our first to second child. Our first child was a very good sleeper from an early age and had our undivided attention from birth. We read at least 20 minutes every night, sang songs from her favorite shows at the time and a few classics from the bedtime repertoire. Then her sister came along and it began to be interrupted, shortened and overall my attention then had to be shared between the two loves. I would get the baby to sleep and no sooner was the toddler beginning to rest and the baby would be crying. I remember reading several books that still left me with very long and frustrating nights that ended in tears!
Every parent has their parenting style and this weighs heavily into their choices when it comes to a child’s routine around naptime and bedtime. Having multiple children also can make this an interesting struggle and transition for parents and children. Regardless of the family dynamic, I’ve outlined some tips that have worked for our family and that have helped us finally find peace with the “nightmare” that can become the bedtime routine.
Establish What it is That You Want to Accomplish:
Write it out on paper and visualize what a perfect bedtime routine would look like for your household. Discuss with the other adults in the household or caretakers. It is incredibly important that the entire family and anyone involved with your children share the same process.
Create a Structured Bedtime Routine and Stick With It No Matter What:
Just like adults, removing electronic stimulus before bed has been a big help for us. No tablets, television etc. After pajamas, its bathroom, books and songs. They brush their teeth, go to the bathroom (so they can’t ask 100 times after getting in bed) and then they each get to pick a book. After reading it is lights out and they each get to pick two songs which we rotate back and forth in singing to avoid a fight of who got to go first or who had more songs. It may seem silly but they know what to expect, they know when to expect it and the routine is consistent. Whether it is Dad, Mom, Grandma or Grandpa we have a routine and stick with it.
Write Out the Detailed Plan:
For example, our 6 and 3 year old share a bedroom. We typically begin the bedtime process around 7:15 because we know it will take nearly an hour before our girls actually fall asleep. We have discussed what we will do when they get out of bed, cry, and are not feeling well and the parameters around this. This will again vary based on the child’s age and parenting style. So the real secret is there is no secret other than having a well-thought out plan in place and adjust when necessary. Structure will create a form of security children crave and they look to you as parents to create this for them.
Reward Good Behavior:
Perhaps it is earning the right to build a fort in your room over the weekend for staying in bed every night in a week. Or an extra book for not having to ask several times for them to brush their teeth. Be consistent and do what you say you’re going to do.
Some Natural Tools to Help with the Process:
We have had a lot of success with applying a lavender essential oil to their feet and wrists after bath. I also like to occasionally sneak in a little lotion foot massage and now the girls will ask for it! They love the attention and connection from their parents, plus it feels really good. On of my favorite bloggers, Mama Natural wrote about the sleep benefits of Tart Cherry Juice here. We have tried it with some success.
Take comfort in knowing that this is an evolving process and even the best laid plans will fail from time to time. As parents we must lead with love, structure and patience. We must help create an environment for them that is conducive to a peaceful night’s sleep.