Bedtime has a history of being a war cry in some households. You never truly feel prepared for the reaction you get when you tell your child it's time for bed, but it almost always ends in tears, tantrums, plea's, chaos, and a request for more dinner. You know that if your child doesn't get enough sleep, they will be a complete mess the next day, but you're also tired of negotiating when it's time to go to bed.
The first day of school is swiftly approaching, which means it's time to ease children back into their back-to-school bedtime routines. That also means undoing all of the unhealthy habits they've gotten away with over summer break. Getting your child back on track with a routine isn't going to be easy, but it has to be done. Here are some tips to help you ease your child back into their bedtime routines.
Start to reintroduce an earlier bedtime.
No more staying up all night playing video games or watching TV The first step to easing back into a bedtime routine is picking an earlier bedtime and sticking to it. Even if school doesn't start for another two weeks, it's good to get them into the habit of going to bed at an earlier time. You can do this by moving your child's bedtime five to 15 minutes earlier at night, and then waking your child up five to 15 minutes earlier in the morning. You can keep doing this until your child is in sync with the time they'll need to be going to bed and waking up once school starts. It will be a huge adjustment for them to go from sleeping in to waking up early, so the sooner you can jump start on enforcing an earlier bedtime, the better they will readjust.
Set expectations earlier in the day.
Once the expectation is set for how the evening is going to run, your child won't be so surprised when it's time to get ready for bedtime. Reminding your child of the tasks and things that have to be done ahead of bedtime lets them know that the expectation for bedtime has been set. When children know what to expect, it helps put them at ease of what's to come.
Incorporate relaxation into the bedtime routine.
Allowing your child to unwind before bedtime with relaxing activities such as independent reading, bedtime stories, or a bath, helps their mind and bodies calm down. The idea is to create a sleep-friendly environment for your child to help soothe them into slumber. Using aromatherapy such as lavender to spray on their pillows before bed is a great way to help your child relax. A sound machine that plays soothing music, comfy bedding, and pillows, and comfortable pajamas are some other things that can make a world of difference when creating a sleep-friendly environment.
Avoid caffeine and big meals close to bedtime.
Sometimes a heavy meal can make for uncomfortable stomach aches that make it harder for children to fall asleep. Setting meal-times a couple of hours before bed will help you avoid running into this issue. It's also a good idea to implement a cut off time for sugary drinks and caffeine as they can interrupt your child's natural sleep pattern and make it difficult to fall asleep. It can also decrease the potential for middle-of-the-night bathroom breaks and accidents.
Set an electronic curfew.
Reduce overstimulating your child's mind before bed by reserving time for gaming systems, phones, computers, and TV in the early afternoon. A good rule of thumb is to cut off screen time at least an hour before it's time to go to sleep. This helps their brain wind down and prepare for a good night's rest.
Get your child involved in getting organized.
Whether that's packing lunches, picking out clothes for the next day, organizing supplies, or even cleaning their room, get your child prepared for bedtime by helping them get ready for the next day. This helps signals to them that the day is over, and before they go to sleep, they have to make sure they're ready for the next day. It makes getting up in the morning easier for everyone while also instilling accountability and independence in your child.
Make sure your partner is on board with the routine.
It's important to discuss plans for easing your child back into a bedtime routine with your partner or spouse beforehand so that you both are on the same page and can ensure your routine is consistent. Collaborate on ideas and come to an agreement on the practices you will use in your household. This allows you to work as a team and hold each other accountable when someone may decide to bend a rule or step in the routine.
The sooner you can ease back into the flow of your back-to-school routine, the better you will prepare your child to have a productive and successful year. As you start to ease your child back into a routine, you may realize some of the methods that worked in the past aren't working anymore. Don't be so quick to give up when you discover something in your routine isn't working. Remember that your child is growing, and this will involve planning and creativity on your part to make a smooth and painless transition for both of you. The most important thing is that your child is always well-rested and excited for the day.