What you need to know:
- The key for kids of all ages is a consistent routine.
- Get them ready for bed at the same time and in the same way every evening.
Few things wear out a young couple more than children who make a fuss about going to bed. And then keep waking up again. And again. And again.
Fortunately there are things you can do to make things much easier.
The key for kids of all ages is a consistent routine. So, get them ready for bed at the same time and in the same way every evening. And wake them at the same time every morning.
With your toddlers, start the bedtime routine with some sort of activity that involves hand-eye coordination, such as shapes, model animals or jigsaws.
Follow that with a light snack, well away from the bedroom, to make sure they’re not hungry.
Then a warm bath and straight to their bed. Keep the bedroom dim for story time, and dark at night. A night light, if needed, should be reddish. Make sure the bedroom’s peaceful. No anger, no raised voices, just a calm and consistent routine.
Keep hugs and kisses to a minimum at bedtime, or they’ll start endlessly asking for more. Instead, set the scene by telling them: ‘One story, one kiss, one hug’.
When you’re ready to leave, stand up with your hand on them for comfort, and then gently walk away. More often than not, they’ll want you to come back. Don’t. Just be boring. No eye contact. No words.
Have a phrase you always say as you leave the bedroom, such as “night, night, sleep tight, love you.” And then leave them to self-settle.
Self settling is particularly important, because small children usually reawaken several times a night. So if they can’t fall asleep on their own at the beginning of the night, for sure they’ll call you every time they wake up later. Because they want whatever they had when they first fell asleep: Their bottle, a story, you.
Doing the same relaxing things in the same order and at the same time each night also helps with older children. Once they’re in bed, encourage them to read quietly, or read a story together.
Encourage your children to exercise during daylight, and reduce physical activities before bedtime. You’d think running around then would help tire your children out, but actually it wakes them up. Sugary and caffeinated drinks like cola, tea or coffee don’t help either.
Try to keep children’s bedrooms as screen-free zones, and get them to charge their stuff somewhere else. Distract them from their screens for the last hour before bedtime, because they make it harder for children to fall sleep.
Older children will also stay up late using social media, or even go online in the middle of the night.
All this also applies to your teens, who need between eight and 10 hours sleep, despite everything they say!
And encourage them not to sleep in at weekends. Long lie-ins disturb their body rhythm, and make it harder for them to settle during the week.