Establishing a bedtime routine starts early and is important to continue through the school years. Bedtime can be an opportunity to reconnect with your child at a pace that is predictable and peaceful. If bedtime at your house is less than peaceful here are a few tips that can help you "re-establish" your routine and start fresh.
A night time routine can be a special time to wind down from the day and get close to your child. No matter who is managing the bedtime routine they need to follow the same plan as closely as possible. Your children may have their own agenda which can include night time fears or stalling tactics, but establishing a routine that they can count on with consistency from you get the results you are looking for. A relaxing bedtime routine can look like this:
Bedtime should be quiet - no wrestling, tickling or activities that rev up your child. Calm voices, soft lighting, soothing music are some options to set the scene. If you have a protest from your child, remain calm and consistent.
Dim light or start turning some lights off signaling the time for bed. If you start this 30 minutes to an hour before bedtime it will become a non-verbal signal that the day is winding down.
Include time to brush teeth, take a soothing bath or other self-care options. Do these things as part of the routine nightly so that it children can count on these tasks. It's best if you are close by supervising or helping (depending on the age of the child). Don't just send them off to do it while you are engaged in another activity.
Have a quiet time activity reading books or singing. You may want to include other things at this time that incorporate your family traditions and beliefs. Think about how soothing and comforting being tucked in with a soft light on, hearing a story being read, followed by a lullaby and a kiss each night to bring the day to a close in a gentle way.
Children who are or have experienced anxiety at night may need more comfort measures. Night lights can be helpful. Leaving their bedroom door ajar with a hall light on is a comforting sign. Promising to check on them before you go to bed is helpful. If you've made this promise, be sure to follow through. You can even share with them in the morning how nice it was to see them sleeping before you went to bed or some similar comment. Some children find soft music a comforting way to fall to sleep.
Keep a consistent "lights out" time. Adjust this time as children get older, but be sure to stick to agreed time for bed.
When you make bedtime rules be sure to do it during the day and have children work with you to establish the plan. It could be fun to do a daytime role play of your new night time routine so that everyone knows what to expect. Trying to negotiate bedtime rules at bedtime is simply a mess!
Establishing these routines for your child builds a sense of security for them and develops a special time for you to connect with your child at the end of the day. Put this time aside to spend time with your child. Even as they are old enough to get themselves to bed you may want to continue some aspects of your routine as a way to reconnect with them.