I have freely admitted that my parenting game shuts down when it’s time for my kids to go to sleep. For many different reasons, every night there is another reason why my young children are going to sleep late. However valid those reasons might be, the reality remains the same: the children are going to sleep late, and they do not wake up easily in the morning.
With my youngest in first grade, with new responsibilities and expectations, I realized it was time for non-negotiable bedtimes.
Here are some of the methods I have tried. See what works best for your family dynamic.
- Create a specific bedtime routine. Ours is bath time, brush teeth, prepare clothes for the next day, and spend ten minutes alone with Mommy or Daddy, reading a book, playing a game, or just chatting. Next, we sing Shema and HaMalach Hagoel together.
That sounds like a pretty solid routine, right? If only it was enough. I highly recommend that children fall asleep alone, one at a time, to avoid distractions from siblings. If a child insists that he or she is lonely or to scared to go to sleep alone, I would allow the child to read in bed quietly as long as when the next child comes into the room, there isn’t any playing or fighting.
Having children fall asleep alone avoids the next issue: which CD to listen to, something else I highly recommend. Having a CD distracts the child from thoughts of “I’m bored, lonely etc.” and lulls the child to sleep. If two children are going to sleep at the same time, I recommend creating a rotating roster of CDs and every night, the next CD is played without any discussion of which CD we should listen to tonight.
- For children with skin issues, such as eczema, or sensory issues, a warm massage with body cream before bed is especially soothing, although any child can benefit from that. Following the massage, have the child immediately change into pajamas to preserve the moisturizer.
- Many children feel the need to be extra cozy at night, so soft pajamas and high-quality sheets can help. Experiment with teddy bears and dolls on or near the bed to create that extra comfort.
- In the morning, make sure your children make their beds – any child above the age five is capable of doing so. While there have been many studies done on the importance of making your bed, for me, it’s sufficient that the bed looks nice and neat when you are ready to go back into it.
- Don’t allow your child to sleep in on days he goes to bed late, or on the weekend. Though its tempting for you to have a morning, it will only encourage him to go to sleep later that night.
- That being said, if your child gets up too early, it could mean that he or she is going to bed too early. I know we all treasure our quiet time, so tell your child that after a certain time, he or she needs to be in bed, but can read or play until you say differently. This way you can still have your downtime, and he or she won’t be tossing and turning in bed for an hour, which only delays the onset of sleep.
- Ask the child what he or she needs to be able to fall asleep. It might be something that you haven’t thought of. Some ideas might be a white noise machine, or a soft light. Within reason, make the accomodation.
Sometimes though, despite your best efforts, you just have to insist that children stay in bed. The most crucial element is to be consistent. If children realize that their bedtime is flexible, they will take advantage of it. Bedtime must be the same every day, barring extraordinary events, for it to mean something.
Keep trying, and before you know it, everyone will be enjoying a solid night of sleep.