Bedtime has to be the most fraught time of the day in any family! Here are a few suggestions to help take a little of the pain out of this routine.
Points to consider:
- Structure and routine give security and a sense of wellness to young children; knowing what is to happen each and every day, at the same time, allows for feelings of mastery and control.
- Pre-schoolers NEED 8-10 hours of sleep, in order to “recharge” their bodies and brains each night.
- Knowing that parents are “in charge” also builds security, as well as developing an understanding and appreciation of authority and authority figures.
- WHO is the Boss in your house? Parental relationships are primary in a family. Your child’s bedtime routine should not interfere with or replace the day-to-day interactions and intimate moments in your marital relationship. Are you satisfying your emotional needs through your child, or are you looking to your spouse for fulfilment?
- Bedtime should be a calming, peaceful end to the day. Spouses should work out together what works best and avoid excitable rough and tumble play.
- Pre-schoolers should go to bed in their own beds, in their own rooms at ±7.00 p.m. It is recommended that older children be given a later bedtime (a token fifteen minutes is sufficient), so as to entrench more mature expectations and behaviour.
- Try and share bedtime responsibilities between parents, if at all possible. (Dad can sort the bathing, Mum the bedtime story or whatever.) This builds relationships between parents and children whilst communicating the message that parents are both equally responsible and “in charge”.
- A story at bedtime can be a real opportunity for intimacy, whilst allowing for language development too.
- Bathtime – supper – toilet and teeth – storytime (in bed) – light off – is a good routine to establish with pre-schoolers. (The latest medical research indicates that night lights can harm sight, so rather leave the passage light on.)
- If your child comes through in the night, take him/her back to their own bed. A real pain, but you won’t be doing it for long …. (Often children wake when there is a drop in temperature; are pyjamas warm enough?)
- Use bribery to get the whole routine going, if need be! (Buy a bag of zoo animals and dish out an animal for every day your child goes to bed in her own room or stays in his own bed through the night.)
- Get your child out of night nappies at an appropriate age (±2½ years); delaying this can lead to later problems with self-image, lack of confidence and perseverance in tackling tasks. (The child perceives himself to “be a baby” and then feels that mastery is an impossibility.)
Good night! Sleep tight!