The Bedtime Challenge
Bedtime is a very important part of each day’s routine but getting the child to sleep can be frustrating for both child and parent. Many parents regularly dread it when it’s time to put their children to bed… the struggle it can be, and it can be very confronting when being challenged by your beautiful, adorable young child who seems to object vociferously as soon as you mention the words “it’s time for bed”, no matter how tired they might be. When a child is overtired, or sleep deprived in any way, it can be very challenging for both parent and child.
The bedroom should be a positive, happy place where children love to be, a room that’s welcoming, restful and somewhere to sleep peacefully but bedtime can be a very frustrating time for many parents, as both parents and children can all be tired. However, there are solutions to this commonly asked question… “How do I get a baby to sleep”?
To solve this common parental dilemma, we need to take a closer look at a few different aspects regarding what should happen prior to bedtime. One of the main aspects of preparing a child for bed is your language and your tone of voice.
Seven tips for preparing your child for bed…
TIP 1 The Room
A child’s bedroom should be an environment that is a warm, positive, safe place. It needs to be inviting… where children can enjoy playing, reading or just relaxing and where they can fall asleep happily each day.
It should never be used in a negative way as a place for them to be sent to because they were rude, naughty or being punished for something. If a child misbehaves, their bedroom is definitely not a place to be sent to.
Tip. 2 Your Tone of Voice
A parent’s language and tone of voice around every phrase should always send positive messages, especially before the bedtime routine.
If a child is sent to their bedroom by their parent using words such as “Go to bed now” or “There are no stories tonight” or “You’re going straight to bed”, in a negative, angry tone of voice, these phrases send strong negative messages to a child around the process of going to bed, their bedroom and themselves.
Negative phrases send conflicting messages and only make a child feel confused and unhappy, especially at the end of their day when it should be a happy time of closeness and good feelings about themselves. It can cause a lot of harm to a child’s overall self-esteem and a child’s health and wellbeing.
TIP 3. Allow Time
Don’t over-schedule your day, as children can become over-tired. Super-busy, stressful days, packed with after-school activities can create havoc with babies, and young children. When parents are over-tired and stressed, this can lead to rushed bedtime routines and cause a child’s regular sleep pattern to be out of kilter.
TIP. 4 Have a Routine
Children love routine. Establish a regular wind-down routine. Children start to wind down in late afternoons as usually the day has been full of play time. Their bodies are slowing and they can get irritable quickly. They may not process information as easily, and life gets out of balance.
Slow-down routines such as enjoying reading books, watching limited screen time, or helping in the kitchen, help establish a child’s wind-down time as an enjoyable time of the day… for both child and parent.
TIP 5 Plan Ahead
Organise the evening meal to be eaten early, say around 5pm. This takes forward planning. Children love to assist, helping in the preparations, if old enough. Children are much more likely to eat food that they have helped prepare. The evening meal should be a time when, as a family, you talk about what’s happened over the school day etc and it’s a great time to reflect on and discuss any issues that your children may be concerned about. Children will open up on what’s bothering them if they feel valued and listened too.
Tip. 6 Have a Check List
Establish a BEDTIME ROUTINE CHART for after the evening meal… Children love routines, they look forward to it and it helps make them feel secure.
Give adequate warning time that the impending bedtime routine is approaching. The wind-down time is needed to precede the bedtime routine so that children will cooperate and have enough time to put their activities away. This might be 5-10 mins. Wind-down time allows children to wind down from the activities of the day, as it’s important for them to transition the brain into their sleep-time mode. It helps prepare the mind and body for sleep.
Headings for the Bedtime Chart…
Bath, Pyjamas, Teeth, Story Book Time, Potty or Night Diaper, Lights out or a soft night light, Singing songs, Hugs and Kisses
Tip. 7 The Surroundings
The room should be quiet and one that promotes relaxation. The sleeping environment needs to be completely dark to promote deep sleep for a child to feel rested. Darkened or block-out shades or blinds enable good sleep. The ideal sleeping room temperature should be around 18 – 21 degrees Celsius or 65 – 68 degrees Fahrenheit for optimal sleep for a baby, toddler or child. Soft music can aid sleep, but for 5 – 10 mins only. Children need to drift off to sleep by themselves, preferably without the aid of soft music or white noise. Children need to be able to sleep hearing the general running household noises. Otherwise it can create a very light sleeper, lead to insomnia or difficulties in the future in not being able to get a deep sleep or have a proper sleep cycle.
It’s important that parents, during bedtime winddown times, use quiet, more soft tones of voice. This allows little ones’ minds and bodies to settle quietly, giving them a feeling of being loved and cared for.
Read the personal story of one parent’s experience in successfully establishing a bedtime routine