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Oh, bedtime. This particular time of day is, on some days, a parent’s saving grace yet, on others, a struggle of epic proportions.
If you have toddlers, than you know for a fact that that struggle is very real, my friends. It seems to be a part of some unwritten, unspoken code of theirs to fight bedtime with every thing they have in those tiny little bodies.
The end of the evening used to be the part of the day that I dreaded most. Between trying to wrestle a 20 pound octopus into pajamas (the youngest seems to grow an extra pair of arms and legs when she wants to avoid PJs), getting everyone through the bathroom when it seems like someone somewhere has pushed the mysterious slow motion button that makes my children move at the speed of snails, and bouncing from room to room at the end of the night putting everyone back in their beds for the hundredth time, bedtime drained me.
In an attempt to regain my sanity when it came to our nighttime ritual and get our children to sleep without the battle, we implemented a few changes a couple of months back that have made getting ready for bed a much more relaxing and, dare I say, enjoyable experience for everyone involved!
If you happen to have a toddler sized octopus of your own, hopefully these tips will help you out as well!
Set a realistic bedtime.
Trying to get your child into bed when they’ve already reached the point of being overtired isn’t going to go well for either of you. Likewise, if your child takes after you or your spouse and is naturally a night owl, putting them to bed earlier in the evening won’t do you much good either.
Now, this isn’t to say that your child should get their PJs on right after dinner or let them stay up until midnight, but if you’re finding that your current bedtime just isn’t working, adjust it. Sometimes, simply moving bedtime up by 30 minutes or letting them stay up a half hour longer can make a whole world of difference.
Provide a wind down activity.
Personally, I know that there is no way that I can go from a fun activity to sleeping in a matter of minutes; therefore, I shouldn’t expect my child to either. Everyone needs at least a few calming minutes to wind down before getting ready for bed.
Find an activity that is calm and relaxing and that doesn’t include any electronic screens. Repeating this activity every night will teach your children that once it starts, the night is winding down and bedtime will soon follow. For us, we’ve found that reading a few bedtime stories before we even get into pajamas makes a big difference. It lets the kids know that it’s time to calm down and sets the right tone for the rest of our end of the evening routine.
Follow a routine.
Which brings us right into the next tip. Follow a routine!
This one has been essential for us with little man being Autistic but it makes such a big difference with our youngest as well.
Having a set bedtime routine keeps the kids in the loop and makes our nightly rituals go so much smoother. Make a chart with your kids or, if you’re children don’t yet know how to read, use a visual picture schedule that allows them to see exactly what is coming up next. After a while, they’ll know exactly what they need to do all on their own, without even having to look at it :)
Does your child have a special blanket, a stuffed animal, or a certain toy that they refuse to go anywhere without? Make sure they have it for bedtime. Each of our children have a special stuffed animal that they carry around with them. In fact, little man has had his by his side since he was old enough to carry it :)
We make sure that they each have their animals in their beds waiting for them when they get done brushing their teeth. After winding down and spending the last 45 minutes or so going through their bedtime routine, this is a welcome site as they crawl under the covers.
Keep it consistent.
While the above tips are fantastic ways to help you banish the bedtime battle, none of them are going to do you any good if you’re not consistent with them. Children thrive on routine and if you’re constantly changing it up, they’re never going to be able to settle.
At night, you want nothing more than for your children to get the rest they need but if they’re all wound up because they’re anxious over what is happening next, that is never going to happen. Set your bedtime, set your routine, and stick with it. I can tell you from experience that the first few nights will be rough, but once they get the hang of it, bedtime will be a whole lot easier for everyone!