Holidays can be full of excitement and wonder for children and families, but activity changes, travel, and all the fun can thoroughly disrupt children’s sleep schedules. So here are five tips for creating or getting back to a better bedtime routine in the new year.
Make a plan
Activities to include in your bedtime plan might include a bath, pajamas, a snack, brushing teeth, reading together, talk time, and prayer. Consider making a Bible story from a good Bible storybook part of your routine too.
Set specific bedtimes based on each child’s age and activities. Not all children are wired alike; some have definite night-owl tendencies, and trying to put a child to bed before he’s actually tired can backfire.
If your child has been staying up too late, set a temporary bedtime at the time he normally falls asleep and start your new bedtime routine about 30 minutes earlier. Then, once the routine is established, begin to move it back in 15-minute increments until your child is falling asleep easily at the desired time.
Children thrive on routine and knowing what to expect, so unless special circumstances dictate, stick to your plan. When bedtimes are consistent, children can predict what’s going to happen next, which helps them feel secure.
Sometimes gentle reminders are needed: “Three more minutes, then it’s time to get into your pajamas.”
Help children relax
Avoid energetic or competitive games as bedtime approaches, and choose quiet activities instead. Following up with a warm bath or shower, a good hair brushing, or a foot rub can help children relax. Make bedtime snacks sleep inducing, like a cup of warm milk or cocoa.
Don’t give up
If you’re making big changes, the first few nights are likely to be quite challenging. But stick to the new routine—you should start to see substantial improvement with the first few weeks.
In the morning, reward your child for what he did well the night before, without focusing on what didn’t happen. Stickers and praise can work wonders.
Get help if you need it
Some children develop bedtime fears, and many children test limits by resisting going to bed, with repeated questions, unreasonable requests, crying, or coming into your room throughout the night. Everyone in the household needs a good night’s rest, so don’t be ashamed to ask for help instead of letting the situation go on and on. Your pediatrician is a good place to start, and so are other parents who have experienced the same difficulties—an online search can put you in touch.
Here’s a book to add to your bedtime reading collection, my new Bible storybook Words to Dream On: Bedtime Bible Stories and Prayers. Available for preorder now and releases February 3.
Got a bedtime tip that’s worked for your family or a favorite book to read at bedtime?
Share it with others in the comments below.