Bedtime for children is often a tired-time for parents. After a hard day of work, fixing dinner, cleaning up and helping kids with homework, parents are often too tired to make bedtime a good time for their kids. It's easy to send them off to their rooms with a quick, "Good night, sleep tight," or an impatient, even angry, repeated, "I said, go to sleep now, and I mean it!" This type of sendoff to bed will not promote peaceful sleep.
Sometimes kids end up in their beds with their minds filled with the video game or TV show they just viewed heavily on their minds. A recent study, as reported by pediatric professor Dr. Dimitri Christakis, showed that "there is growing evidence that media use around sleep time is bad for sleep initiation." Children need a transition period in order to settle down and enjoy a good night's rest.
Parents can provide that peaceful transition time. Even though it takes effort when you're already tired yourselves, it will be a true gift of love for your children.
Here are some suggestions to help you get started
Thirty minutes before bedtime shut off all electronic devices
These include cell phones, TV, and video games. During this transition time go with your child and help him or her get dressed for bed. Then spend a little time sitting on or near the bed talking in soothing tones to your child. Ask him about his day. Just listen without criticism.
One mother reported how she would lay by her little 3-year-old and together they would sing songs. Some were lively, but then they became soft and sleep promoting. She said it became a favorite time for her and her son. Besides setting a peaceful tone for sleep, it created a loving relationship between this boy and his mother.
Kneel by the bedside
Another mother told of how she started at a very early age to kneel by the bedside of her children and help them say their prayers. She said, "After they climbed into bed, I would stay kneeling there, being face to face, and we would talk for a while." She went on to say that as the children grew they wanted the tradition to continue. "As teenagers, when they came home from a game or party, even though it was late, they would say, 'Are you coming, Mom? I want to tell you all about what happened.'" She said it wasn't always easy but well worth it to spend this before-sleep time with her kids.
Tell bedtime stories
A father took this time to have his kids gather around his knee and sit on the floor, with little ones on his lap, as he told them stories of his earlier years. These stories taught them valuable lessons about life and fortified their faith in God. His children treasure the memories of these bedtime stories. Bedtime is a golden time for teaching. Children want to put off going to sleep so they are open to whatever delays this. It's the perfect invitation for you to make this a happy time for them.
A favorite blanky is OK
Some children have a favorite stuffed animal or blanket that is comforting to hold as they fall asleep. This can continue their feelings of comfort after parents leave the room. One young woman was so attached to her puppy that she brought the bedraggled toy to college. She discovered she wasn't the only one. What does it matter? If it's comforting then let it be. Perhaps it brought many sweet and comforting bedtime memories as she passed from childhood into college life.
Make memories that will last
When parents take the time to make bedtime a soothing transition from daily activities it can be a lasting gift of love to their children. How soothing it is for a child to spend this short time with a parent, then to be kissed goodnight and hear her parent tenderly say, "I love you."
Don't beat yourselves up if you don't do it every night. Just be sure to do it as often as you can. Not only will your children sleep better but they will have a lifetime of cherished memories with their parents.