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Learning About How to Help Your Child Get Ready for Bedtime

How can you make bedtime easier?

It's common for young children to not want to go to bed when they should. If your child resists going to bed, bedtime can start to feel like a nightly battle. It can be frustrating and upsetting for both you and your child. But there are things you can do that may help make bedtime in your house a little easier. Here are some ideas.

  • Make a bedtime routine.

    This is a set of steps you do every night in the same order to get ready for bed. Doing the same things every night helps your child know what to expect. For example, you might have a "4 B's" routine (bath, brush, book, bed). What you include in your routine is up to you. But try not to let it get too detailed. Long routines delay bedtime.

  • Offer choices.

    Building some options into a bedtime routine may help reduce conflict. Children may resist bedtime less if they have a little bit of control over some parts of it. For example, you might let your child choose which pyjamas to wear or what books you will read.

  • Help your child prepare for the next day.

    Getting organized for tomorrow can help kids get in the mindset of ending one day to start the next. For very young kids, getting ready for the next day might mean letting them choose the clothes they want to wear and setting them out. For slightly older kids, it might mean letting them pack a lunch to take to daycare or school.

  • Use the time as a chance to connect.

    Even though bedtime might sometimes feel hard, try to find a way to use a part of it to connect with your child. You could tell each other what the best part of your day was. Or you could sing a special song together, say a prayer, or list the things you are thankful for. You can try out different things and find what works best for you.

  • Try to avoid things in the evening that energize your child.

    Just like with adults, it can take some time for kids to slow their brains and relax for sleep. You can help your child get to bed more easily by avoiding things that make it hard to get to sleep. Avoid caffeine. Soda and hot chocolate can contain caffeine. And avoiding technology before bed can help. The light from cell phones and tablets can make it hard to get to sleep.

  • Think about a rewards system.

    If bedtime is a struggle, think about ways to encourage positive behaviour at bedtime. Something like a sticker chart may work for younger children.

Bedtime struggles probably won't disappear overnight. The best thing you can do is be consistent. Give it time for your new bedtime approach to work. And don't be too hard on yourself on the nights when it doesn't.

If you are worried about sleep issues that go beyond just getting to bed (such as sleepwalking, night terrors, or anxiety issues), talk to your doctor.

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