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Q: Bedtimes are terrible at my house. How can I make the process more peaceful for myself and my child?
Nighttime routines can be rough.
You come home from a long day of work tired. Your child comes home from a long day of school and is tired but doesn’t know they’re tired. Then you make dinner, do bath time and your toddler is ready to do anything except sleep.
You are not alone!
Children go through a venting period. Most parents call this “the witching hour,” when a child comes home and breaks down. They, like adults, are feeling tired from all the hard work they have done at school but, unlike adults who know that their bodies are tired and need to rest, the only way they know to react is by crying, screaming, and throwing their dinner on the floor.
You know they’re tired. You think they will just lay in their bed and pass right out and you will FINALLY get that adult time you have been waiting for since you got home. False. Now it’s time to fight the sleep, read ten books, sing five songs, “oh I forgot to go to the bathroom,” and “I need water THIS INSTANT.” Yup, nobody told us about this part of being a parent, but you are strong and muddle through these nighttime routines any way you can.
Good news, I have tips for you. With a little tweaking here and there nighttime routines can become the best part of your day!
- Visual Schedule- create a visual schedule on a magnetic board that your child can put next to each part of the day they have completed. You can do this for a whole day or just when they come home from school. This will help them learn the routine and be excited to move their magnet to tasks they have finished. When children are 2 or 3 years old they do not have much control; a routine helps them feel safe and know what to expect. Using these types of schedules speaks to your child’s sense of routine, they tend to be more OCD than
- Give choices– Allow your child to choose between two pairs of pajamas so that they feel like they are in control of their routine. They make a choice about something you care little about, but they care very much about. You can do this with the books you read before bed, songs you sing, or how many kisses they get before you leave.
- Set timers– This tip is similar to the visual schedule where the child begins to learn their routine. You can use a fun song as the alarm so when it goes off they get excited for the next step in their routine. They can push the button to start or stop the timer giving them a sense of control in the situation.
- Describe their feelings– Helping children work through their feelings gives them the critical thinking skills to help them become more aware of their emotions. Say things like; “I know you had a long day at school, you worked very hard. You may be feeling tired now which is normal, I am tired too. You will feel so much better after a good night’s sleep.” Or you can use language to help them redirect their attention – “tell me who you sat with at lunch,” “I saw you did some artwork today, do you remember what colors you used?”
Children are fickle, Sometimes night times can be easy-breezy; Other times they can be the hardest part of the day. Keeping the routine very consistent, even on weekends, will help your child feel secure because they know the expectations for those few hours of the routine.