Do you ever feel like bedtime is never over in your house? Are you up and down the stairs a million times before it’s finally quiet? Are you constantly getting cups of water for children who are supposed to be sleeping? Do you get up in the middle of the night to change the sheets?
In my experience, a lot of parents struggle with bedtime – and what comes after. That’s why I’ve put together a short guide to help ensure that your evenings are calm and relaxing.
Challenge #1: Your children are climbing the furniture. You don’t know how you can force them into their beds, but you definitely don’t think they are going to fall asleep.
Solution #1: There’s a chance that your children are overstimulated, but its more likely that bedtime is too late! When children get overtired (yes, there is such a thing), their bodies kick into overdrive and they get hyper. If you want to ensure this doesn’t happen, make sure they are in bed between 9.5 to 11 hours before they have to get up in the morning. This will allow them to get the sleep they need to function the next day.
Challenge #2: Every time you think you are done with bedtime, your child asks for another story or glass of water. Or, he tells you his socks don’t fit right.
Solution #2: Create a bedtime routine. This can include brushing teeth, washing faces, reading a book, telling a story, rubbing the child’s back, singing Shema, or any other calming ritual your family enjoys. If possible, create a poster or small book with simple drawings so that your child can understand the routine. Then, explain that you will not deviate from it. The routine will allow your child’s body to understand that it is bedtime and is thus time to relax. If you stick with the routine, your child will also eventually stop asking for those extra stories and cups of water.
If your child needs extra motivation, create a chart for him with rewards at the end of a week of staying in bed quietly from bedtime until the morning.
Challenge #3: Your child is afraid of the dark or what’s in her closet.
Solution #3: Your child’s fears are very real and should not be ignored. However, bedtime is not the time to address those fears in a genuine matter. Therefore, if you are aware of the fears, sit down with your child and talk about what scares him. Explain to him that things are the same in the dark as in the light, we just can’t see them. Help him look in the closet during the daytime. Read books about fears so he can see how other people overcame them. Maybe he will feel better with a night-light or a special doll to hug. That said, once you have done these things, bedtime is bedtime. Do the calming routine and put your child to bed.
Challenge #4: You stick to a bedtime routine, but your child still won’t go to sleep. And, even when he does, he wakes up throughout the night.
Solution #4: There are various disorders that can disrupt sleep. Among them: Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD), sensory processing disorder (SPD), previous traumatic experiences, or sleep apnea. These need to be addressed and diagnosed by a doctor, psychologist, or educational specialist. If these sleep issues persists, it is best to consult a professional.
Challenge #5: Your six-year-old child goes to bed without a problem, but consistently wets the bed.