Children struggle against going to bed for a number of reasons: anxiety about being in the dark, fear of bad dreams or imagined monsters, or they simply may lack the self-soothing ability to shut down and drift into sleep.
Some childrens sleep styles come with built-in clocks that turn off their bodies when exhaustion strikes, no matter where they are. But others become more hyperactive and cranky when theyre tired, and getting them to sleep is more of a challenge.
Its futile to force a child to go to sleep, but parents can help provide a consistent nightly routine to help their child slow down and relax. Start by converting bedtime from a battle zone to a neutral zone.
A large clock in the family room can help signal that bedtime is nearing (Its time for bed when the big hand is on the 12 and the little hand is on the 8.). A chart with pictures depicting the nightly routine can serve as a daytime reminder. A soothing bath always helps, but limit those to about 10 minutes with a simple oven timer so the bath initiates relaxation, not play.
Offer a child several options when bedtime nears so he feels he has some say-so. For example, Do you want to brush your teeth first, and then take a bath, or take your bath first? Either way, you both win.
Other rituals that start a child moving toward sleep: choosing which pajamas to wear, selecting a brief bedtime story (or making one up), making a final trip to the bathroom, and getting a kiss. Bedtime prayers should be positive.
Limit the time on routines to avoid the one-more-glass-of-water excuse children often use to postpone the inevitable.
Try these ideas:
- Do gentle exercises to music together in the hour before bed, rather than allowing children to watch television. Avoid over-stimulation and roughhousing.
- Give your child a gentle body massage from head to toe to soothe tensions and ease growing pains.
- Paste glow-in-the-dark stars on the bedroom ceiling for making wishes or inspiring dreamy stories.
- Install a gentle night-light to make the dark less scary. A treasured blanket or a nighttime comfort toy can help, too, as can a bedside spill-resistant sipper cup filled with water.