Minimizing Bedtime Conflicts
Some of Suzette’s helpful hints to make your child’s bedtime routine smoother and more successful

Now that your children are little first, second, or third-year students, their day is chock full of activities of all kinds. It’s a good idea to allot 30 – 45 minutes to your bedtime routine to prepare them for sleep. Routine is the operative word. Children thrive on an evening routine; it will allow you a much-deserved evening of relaxation and sanity.

The evening ritual will include a period of winding down, with soft music, a warm bath, or whatever evokes a relaxation response in your child.

You can tell your child that you will spend special time with them once they are safely tucked in bed. It’s a time for a few snuggles and reading a set number of books: if you tell your child you will read two books, then two books it shall be.

Parents have the responsibility of maintaining the routine. Please don’t interrupt the child’s special time, thus breaking the routine, even to answer the telephone. That will convey the message that your time with her/him is not your highest priority.

Parents who return home late from work are quite naturally eager to spend some quality time with their children, but the interaction should not interfere with the winding-down routine. This is not the time for tussling or overly stimulating games.

Anticipate your child’s anxieties, concerns, and ploys. Children often complain about sleeping alone. Explain that it is a wonderful thing to be big enough to have one’s very own bed, that their grown-ups need their own special time together to plan a happy day tomorrow for the whole family. Provide special bedtime toys that can occupy the child until he or she falls asleep, such as stuffed animals, a flashlight, or appropriate cassettes and simple, durable player that a child can manage. Make these toys available at bedtime only, when you leave the child’s room with assurance of your love. (In a similar vein, parry an older siblings jealousy by having special toys that come out when mommy is breast-feeding.) Provide a plastic cup of water in case your child wakes up thirsty.

If your child cries during the night, get up to assure yourself that everything is all right, reassure the child, and go back to bed. If the child gets out of bed, walk him or her back as often as it takes, saying, “Oh, you forgot the rule. Go to sleep so that the morning will come fast, and we will begin a happy new day together.”

Even if you establish an ironclad routine, provide diversions, and reassure your child, you may have to endure an evening or series of evenings of screaming and tears after you leave the room. Although this is difficult to bear, remember the phrase “This too shall pass.” (This period of strong attachment passes all too soon.) Keep focused on the goal of establishing a healthy sleep pattern for your child in particular and your family in general. Your child will benefit by the reassurance provided by the limits you are setting, and by awaking renewed, rested, and ready for a new day. And you will feel better knowing that you have established healthy limits that will help your child, and, eventually, free up private time for yourself..

With much love,