Easier Bedtimes #RealTime
This month, we’ve highlighted ways that families can spend #RealTime together. Of course, there are many times throughout the day that this can happen. Today, we are focusing on bedtime. You know the importance of sleep for your family – we all need it.
Today though, we are strictly talking about bedtime. This is a time when some parents really love to connect with their kids and when other parents just want it all to be done so that they can get on with their list of things and then get some of that much-needed sleep themselves.
So how do we make bedtime the easiest it can be?
We get clear about how we want it to look. It doesn’t really need to take a long time. In fact, unless you are starting very early in the evening, a long bedtime routine can work against everyone. When we keep kids up beyond their naturally occurring sleepy time, they rely on Adrenalin to keep them going. Once that is in their systems, kids take even longer to fall asleep.
Do yourself and your kids a favour and start bedtime early enough that they can be in their beds when sleepy time hits. Planning out the bedtime routine can also help us to keep it short and sweet, while maintaining consistency so that the babysitter, or mom or dad can all do it in pretty much the same way.
Make a plan – write it down. Kids do better when they can see the plan and read it themselves (use pictures for little kids). Parents tend to do better that way too. Decide in advance whether you will read 2 stories or 3 stories. Add in a trip to the bathroom and a trip to fill up the water glass. Get it all in the plan so that it becomes a good family habit.
Getting ready before bedtime
When families tell us their bedtime routines, some will mention that they all like to “wind down” while watching a show together. Often, they then tell us how hard it is to get their kids to turn off the show and to get them settled into bed after the fact.
The truth is, watching a show might be restful for the body, but it is not restful for the mind. Television, movies and computer programs actually stimulate the brain. They are not effective in getting kids to sleep. We recommend that you keep your screen time as far away from bedtime as possible.
While we are on that topic, we encourage parents to leave their screens (aka phones) out of the bedtime routine as well. There is no need to be on social media while the kids are in the bath, doing Luminosity while the kids are reading, or checking an email while they are getting into their PJ’s. When parents are distracted by phones, children end up misbehaving more just to get the attention back. This doesn’t help anyone.
Reading books and listening to music can really help kids to mentally wind down before sleep. Reliving the pleasant parts of the day can be helpful too. Don’t spend too much time focusing on tomorrow, as that gets the brain going forward again.
When things interfere with bedtime…
Having a bedtime plan works really well. Sometimes, things get in the way. It may be a one-time shift or soccer season may throw a wrench into bedtime for a couple of months at a time. No problem – just get clear with the kids ahead of time about how you are going to shorten the routine. Maybe they read a story in the car on the way home from soccer. Perhaps you get the water cup ready before you leave for soccer. Work with your kids to make a plan and that will stop some of the struggles.
Bedtime for teens
In order to keep the peace in the evenings, get clear on what you expect – can your teen stay up indefinitely? What time are the devices parked? Teens need at least 8.5 hours of sleep per night. Use this knowledge to guide you and your teen to set up a bedtime that makes sense. Winding down may be a great time for you to connect with your teen. On the other hand, when parents and teens are tired, emotions may be on edge and discussing weighty issues may be better left until morning.
This week, ask yourself these questions:
Does everyone in our family know what is expected at bedtime?
Are we starting our routine early enough so that the kids are getting to be when sleepy?
Is my child getting the necessary amount of sleep? Am I?
What can I add to our bedtime routine to make things easier for everyone?
We hope that you enjoy spending #RealTime with your kids at the end of the day and that it becomes something that works well for your family.
Dr Dan Siegel shares what happens to your brain when you use your smartphone before bed.