A child’s bedtime is one of the most common causes of arguments between a parent and child. Trying to get a child to lay down at night can occasionally seem like a rodeo event, and while most parents probably wish they could sleep as long as their children, kids have a very different view of bedtime.
Depending on their age, a child can develop a variety of issues with going to sleep. Whether it stems from a fear of the dark, separation anxiety, or an unwillingness to let go of the day, bedtime can become a stressful situation for any child.
To help a child deal with going to sleep at night a little less stressfully, parents need to help establish a plan that assists their child with this nightly transition. Here are a few helpful tips that can make bedtime a little easier for your child regardless of his or her age.
Stay Consistent with Bedtime
While young children don’t know the time, their bodies can tell the difference if their bedtime varies. Having your child go to sleep at the same time each night can help get them into a mental and physical sleep routine. Although you might be tempted to change their sleep schedule on the weekend or during the summer when they don’t have school the next day, keeping their bedtime consistent helps them avoid bodily confusion. Alternating your child’s sleep schedule can also make it difficult for them to adjust back to a normal schedule once school starts.
No Late-Night TV
If you let your child watch TV right up until bedtime, you could be making it more difficult for them to fall asleep. Studies have shown that watching TV at night doesn’t help a child relax, and, depending on the program, may actually cause overstimulation. Watching exciting programs such as cartoon can cause stress-like symptoms in children, which can result in them having trouble falling to sleep at night. Studies have even shown that watching nightly news can cause kids to have trouble sleeping afterward.
Establish a Routine
Creating a nightly bedtime routine that involves three or four different activities can help a child relax and get ready for bed. For young children, a typical routine may include a shower, dressing in pajamas, brushing their teeth, and laying down for a story. Whatever routine you establish with your child, you need to keep it consistent.
Make it an Early Night
While it might seem counterintuitive, the earlier a child’s bedtime the easier a time he or she will have falling asleep. Once children become exhausted, they have a tendency to become crankier, which raises their stress levels and makes it harder for them to fall asleep. Most pediatricians recommend elementary age school children have a bedtime somewhere between 7:30 and 8:30.
Head Towards the Goal
Once you create a nightly routine, make sure that every part of the routine continues to head in one direction, your child’s bedroom. Don’t start the routine upstairs for a bath, only to go back downstairs for a glass of milk, then back upstairs again to brush, dress, and lay down. All of the action needs to head towards the direction of your child falling asleep. Moving from upstairs to down or from room to the room provides too many opportunities for you and your child to become sidetracked or distracted.
Say “No” to Reasons for Getting Up
If your child has a tendency to get out of bed so she can ask for a drink or one more hug, grant her first request but firmly say no to any subsequent requests. By asking for things they may not even want, children develop stalling tactics that delay them from having to fall asleep.
Suddenly, after one more drink, hug, or trip to the bathroom, your child’s 7:30 bedtime has become an 8:15 one. Even if you find declining such simple requests difficult, you must stay consistent, no matter how much your child might plead in order for her to believe you mean business.