Well it is that time again…While many parents smile and cannot wait for school to begin, there are many who feel as if the battles have begun. What battles you say? The battle parents fight when they try to conform children to daily routines.
Routines are something most adults feel makes the world a much saner place. We have set times to eat, sleep, work and then start all over again. However, many parents struggle with maintaining a consistent sleep routine for their child. Children fighting sleep and then consequently fighting getting up in the morning, causes despair in both parent and child. All is not lost! There are some very simple strategies parents can put in place that will help ease their child into a sleeping routine without the fuss.
Parents need to make sure to take charge of routines and set limits. Parents sometimes defer to children to make decisions when parents still need to be in control. Children want limits and want to feel secure knowing parents have nicely managed important aspects of their lives.
Children need to be in bed early enough so that when morning comes, there is little difficulty getting them out of bed. Sometimes that means moving their bedtime 30 minutes earlier each week until children are able to rise and shine with little fuss. It is also important to keep bedtime consistent once the time has been established. Life happens, so some days it may be nearly impossible to get to bed on time. However, this should be as infrequent as possible.
Don’t try to put your child to bed without allowing them time to wind down first. It is difficult as adults to go from active to sleep. Our minds work overtime and our bodies twist and turn. Children are no different. Give them an opportunity to calm themselves and download from the day. Allowing them to engage in quiet activities help them to quiet their minds; activities like reading or listening to calming music helps. But establishing this calming time needs to be an integral part of the child’s nightly routine. The 4 B’s -bath, brushing teeth, books and bed is an important and predictable routine that should start about an hour before bedtime.
Parents can still give a child a lot of choices for bedtime that makes them feel they have a say in their nightly routine and it makes the nightly routine entertaining. Give your child choices on how they want to move from bath to bed. Would you like to walk backwards or forwards, do you want to hop or walk, how many stories, how many kisses?
Finally, create a comfortable sleep environment. Remove the distracting electronics (TV, cell phones, games and gadgets) and replace them with soft huggable items. And allow your child to self soothe and fall asleep on their own. When we rest with children to help them fall asleep, or allow them to watch TV, they become dependent on that stimulus, so if they wake up during the night, they expect that same stimulus to be there. Teaching them to fall asleep on their own is one of the greatest lessons in independence you can teach a child.
Although it may seem that getting your children to go to bed is a battle that must be fought, it doesn’t have to be if you establish predictable and fun bedtime routines.
Jeannie Morgan-Campola has been in the Early Childhood field for 25 years in which she held many different positions. She began working as a part-time instructor for Rowan-Cabarrus Community College in the year 2000 and became a full-time instructor 6 years ago. She was promoted to Program Chair of the Early Childhood and School Age Education Programs in the summer of 2012. I hold a Bachelor’s Degree in Individual and Family Studies: Applied Child Development, and two Master’s Degrees: one in Adult Education and Distance Learning and the other in Early Childhood Education.