When parents come to see me in the clinic about sleeping issues for their children, my first question is always “what’s your night time routine?” When this is answered with ambiguity and vagueness, then I know what our first step of intervention is! Why is a bed time routine so important, I hear you ask? Well, let me tell you!
To begin with, think about your own routines and rituals around bedtime. If you asked my husband he would tell you that I take about an hour to actually get into bed once I’ve announced that I’m going to bed. I think he’d be exaggerating, but my point is that we all have little ‘bits and bobs’ we want to do before we head off to bed. It might be wiping down the bench, washing your face, turning on the dishwasher, locking the doors etc. But we often find that unless we’ve carried out these tasks, we might struggle to settle. Well, it’s the same for our kids! Here’s why…
Firstly, we know that predictability, routine and functional rituals can decrease anxiety. This is because it is something familiar for us to hang our hat on, so to speak. When our kids know that the same thing happens each night before bed, they don’t have to worry about what’s coming up next, particularly at a time when we are likely to see more challenging behaviours thanks to tiredness.
Having the predictable routine also decreases the chances of ‘pushing the boundary’ type behaviours, because your kids know that there is a set routine and there is no use trying to disrupt it, because mum and dad are consistent.
The night time routine is also a really beautiful time to connect with your child. While I dont recommend opening up metaphorical “cans of worms” at this time, and disecting your child’s worries from the day (this should be done earlier in the day, not right before bed), it’s a great time to tell your child how much you love them/how proud you are/ask them what was amazing about their day and perhaps discuss something to look forward to tomorrow.
Reading a story together is a way to further solidify your routine, and check out some of my book reviews for some ideas about great books for bed time.
Having a regular night time routine allows your child an opportunity to learn how to self settle and quieten their mind after a busy day. By reading a calming story and spending time with them in the dim light of their bedroom, using quiet voices and generally being calm, we show them how to slow down in preparation for sleep. This way they can drift off to sleep independently and (fingers crossed!) stay that way until morning!
Stay tuned for my top tips for a sucessful bed time routine so you can become bed time routine MASTERS!