Bedtime doesn’t have to be the hardest part of the day. Studies show that the ten minutes before a child falls asleep stick in their memories. Some parents like to use this time to review an academic subject the child needs extra help with, such as multiplication tables. I feel that emphasizing our connection and how loved they are is much more important than reviewing math, so that’s what we do in my house right before falling asleep.
Why It’s So Important
How kids go to sleep and wake up in the morning has a big effect on emotional wellbeing. Transitional periods affect the way kids process the world and how the delicate balance of belonging and independence develops as they grow into adults.
This is the period of the day when I choose to push myself. In the afternoon, you’ll find me multi-tasking, and I might be impatient. Some days I may even lose my temper. But I stay “professional” and present for the hour and a half during bedtime, using this time to train myself to remain in control and set the tone. Plus, things go so much smoother if you force it to be positive.
Putting siblings to bed is all about planning. Plan the most efficient order of who goes to bed when, plan a pleasant, relaxing activity so you don’t dread bedtime, and plan how long the whole routine will take so you can wholeheartedly sign on.
I do bedtime youngest to oldest. I like how it feels like a privilege for the older kids to stay up a bit later (although it’s very important not to allow younger kids to feel like it’s a punishment to go to bed earlier). I start with the youngest and, after pajamas and brushing teeth, I spend ten minutes or so cuddling, singing, and getting her comfortable in bed. Then I move on to the next youngest. The older they get, the more they want to talk to wind down from their day. I want them to fall asleep feeling good about themselves and confident of my love, so I like to discuss the good things that happened that day, or something they weren’t happy about that they want to share. I’ll share something from my day because this makes them feel valued and included. I like to focus on one positive middah the child has, asking whether he or she had an opportunity to use it that day. My children end the day feeling accomplished, happy with themselves, and loved. This helps them fall asleep calmly.
Tweak the basic idea of staggering bedtimes to make it work for you. If ten minutes with each child isn’t enough, get creative. One thing I’ve seen work nicely is when everyone gets ready for bed at the same time and then has a collective “bedtime book” before the actual bedtime. This gives everyone some family time together, and then each kid gets a few minutes of talking time.
Batya Sherizen (aka Batya the Baby Coach) has been a child sleep coach for over 10 years now. She helps tired, frustrated, yet loving parents regain control of their sleep and their lives by using her gentle, proven methods to help babies sleep — and sleep FAST! To submit a sleep question or to download her Free Sleep Guide, go to: batyathebabycoach.com/YATED.