Every night, parents are faced with a big challenge: getting the kids to go to bed without a fight. We have heard it all, from “I need a glass of water” to “But I’m not sleepy.” It is like magic, every night the kids have amnesia about the fact that they have to put on pajamas and go to bed, and suddenly you are forcing a travesty on them.
This fight can turn into more than just a little issue, however, and can lead to sleep deprivation and stress in kids and adults alike. In fact, according to the National Sleep Foundation, two thirds of all adults aren’t getting adequate sleep and nearly a third of all kids under 18 are chronically “sleepy”. So what can you do about it? There are some new creative ways to get the kids to embrace bedtime.
Have you ever tried to go to bed in a room with all of the lights on? Chances are, you had a difficult time doing so. It would seem common sense to turn off the lights when it is time for kids to go to bed, but did you know that dimming the lights at least an hour before bedtime can actually help the kids get to sleep? According to Dr. Bobbi Hopkins from All Children’s Hospital, dimming the lights as early as 6 p.m., or sundown (whichever is first) will release melatonin and help kids feel sleepy faster. This can lead to much less arguing and fighting about not being sleepy when it comes time to go to bed.
It is also important to limit screen time in the evenings. Whether you are an adult having trouble getting to sleep or a child fighting sleep, studies have shown that televisions, tablets, and cell phones all emit a blue light that tricks your brain into thinking that it is time to wake up. So for at least an hour before bed, turn off the TV and power down your child’s devices so that their minds can get into sleep mode. If you have a teen or a child who is unwilling to give up their devices before bed, an easy way to solve this issue is to take their charger away.
For teens who stay up late at night texting and wake up cranky, they will soon learn that texting all night not only leads to their batteries needing to be recharged, but their devices batteries as well.
Offer Choices, but DON’T Bargain
Kids, especially young kids, love to feel like they are in control. This is where offering choices comes in as a way to get your kids excited about their bedtime. For example, offer them a choice of three bedtimes, but with different perks to each. The earliest bedtime comes with a promise of a treat at breakfast. The middle bedtime comes with a book being read before bed and a smaller treat at breakfast. The latest bedtime comes with a full book being read before bed (within time limits of course). Giving them the choice to take control will empower them to go to bed and meet their bedtime. If they don’t go to bed on time, take away their perks.
When it comes to bedtimes, one of the most important things you can do though is to stand firm. Don’t bargain with them at bedtime. If they feel they can talk their way out of going to bed, then they will. Stand your ground and keep their bedtime as a steady routine, as much as you would keep an appointment at work. It is non-negotiable when it comes to the kids. Consistency is key when it comes to setting bedtime routines, and bargaining can make bedtime less consistent.
Spend Time Together Before Bed
One of the most important things you can do for both you and your child is to spend time together at the end of the day winding down. Before bed time, spend at least a half hour talking with your child about their day. Not only does this help foster good communication, but it also gives your child time to talk through any anxieties they may be experiencing in their daily lives. They will have the chance to work through problems that might have kept them awake as they chat with you.
The old tricks of reading together and spending time praying together are all good, but talking through your child’s day can make them sleepy and more ready for the next morning.
Remember: Consistency is key. If something doesn’t work right away, give it time and do it consistently for the best results.
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by Angela Ardolino of Tampa Bay Parenting, TBParenting.com