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If your family is like mine, bedtime can be a real hectic experience that repeats every night, 7 days a week. Everyone needs to set up a bedtime strategy and plan that works for their own lifestyle, but check out the five-step approach that has worked for my own family, for kids ranging from toddlers to teens.
1. Set an age-appropriate bedtime for each child and make sure you try to stick to it as much as possible, even on weekends or days off from school. I have triplets so they are all the same age and they all go to bed at the same time each night. Their big brother (just one year older) has to be in bed a half hour later. Kids thrive on routine and structure, and unless it is a really special occasion, a regular schedule is likely to work well for the kids and you.
2. Don't let your kids drink or eat anything if it is an hour or less before lights out. The only exception to this is water, and I don't permit anymore drinking of this when we are down to 30 minutes prior to turning the lights off because this will lead to bathroom visits during the night that would interrupt the precious solid night of sleep each of them needs.
3. Along the same lines, to help with the evening quieting down period, at 30 minutes prior to lights out, be sure your child(ren) has/have already completed brushing their teeth, washing up, and using the toilet.
4. 30 minutes before, I also suggest requiring each child to be in their bed (with the lights on) and doing some sort of quiet activity such as reading on their own, or your reading to them, or them reading to you. I also have played quiet classical music in my kids' bedroom every night during this time of day to provide a calming environment.
5. Be strict about turning the lights out at the time you've set as bedtime. If kids of various ages share a room, like ours do, have the child who stays up later have a regular quiet place they go to for the nightly 30-minute wind down to sleep period, such as a cozy couch or bean bag chair in your family room so they don't keep younger children awake. Also, don't not allow kids to get up once the light has been turned out; if they do get out of bed or come out of their room simply physically pick them up (if they are young enough) and return them to their bed without saying anything...if you do speak to them this could actually stimulate them.
Remember the way parents handle bedtime will set the evening sanity barometer in your household.
As always, I'd love to hear comments about the ways you handle bedtime at your house.