Bedtime can be a long drawn out process for older children. In my opinion, there is no harm in having a longer bedtime routine as long as the end result is that your child is tucked into bed happy and drifting off to sleep. This is why I often call bedtime “a marathon and not a race”. When you are rushing your children up the stairs to get a bath, brush their teeth and put on pajamas it can be stressful. Stressed out children or parents are reactive and noncompliant. This results in upset people when it should be a relaxing fun time. Children will be able to rest a bit easier when they have had some fun and were able to have some good connection time with an adult prior to going to sleep.
You may be asking…
“How do you reduce the stress at bedtime?”
The following are some tips that may help:
- Take it one step at a time.
- Allow enough time to get all the steps done.
- Account for time for your child to complete tasks. As adults, this can sometimes be painful for us as we just want to get it done.
- Offer choices when possible. Examples: “Do you want to brush your teeth or do you want my help?”; “Which toothpaste do you want? Pink or blue?”
- Play and laugh as much as you can.
- Remember going late to bed by 5 to 10 minutes is not the end of the world.
We live this marathon every night. Our 5 (almost 6)-year-old is my real life example that this can work. Previously, I wrote a blog post about Bringing the Fun Back to Bedtime. I wrote this blog post shortly after I recovered from the lovely transition from crib to big boy bed. I really struggled with trying to keep the bedtime under the recommended 30 to 45 minutes. This all changed when I realized that it was all about the journey to sleep. If we got there stressed and frustrated, sleep took forever! When we got there over time and while having fun, sleep happened quickly for our son.
Here is a quick rundown of our evening routine:
- We head upstairs around 6:30 to 6:45 pm. He plays while the bath is filling up. He usually likes to play with one parent. This can be an interactive play (he likes to pretend that he is a Pokemon character and one parent is the Pokemon Master), a game (he likes to play fish or Tic Tac Toe) or independent play where his imagination goes wild.
- He uses the bathroom.
- He gets a bath and plays in the water for 15 to 20 minutes (sometimes less depending on the shape his skin is in).
- He gets dressed.
- He gets a snack picnic style on the floor in the master bedroom.
- He flosses and brushes his teeth with help from an adult.
- He then goes to his room and picks out 2 stories to read. He reads 3 books altogether (Home reading book from school and 2 more).
- While reading stories the other parent applies 2 washable tattoos on his feet or legs (Yes you are reading this correctly!)
- After stories, he snuggles with one adult (usually Daddy) for 3 minutes.
- When the timer goes off the adult leaves the room and he “reads” quietly in his bed.
- After 10 to 15 minutes (sometimes sooner) he will call out and ask that he gets his light turned off. He could do it himself but it is our last chance to tuck him in and give him a final piece of connection before he goes to sleep. He is asleep between 8 to 8:15 pm.
Keep in mind our routine may be a bit long for you or your family. As with all things parenting, do what works for you and your child!! Enjoy your child as much as possible!
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There are a few things you can do; however, you first have to decide if you are okay with the morning wake time.
If you are happy with the new wake time then do the following:
1. Naps will occur after the proper amount of wake time. This will make it seem like naps are now on hour later then they were the day before the time change. It is the clock playing tricks on you.
2. Bedtime will be one hour later then usual.
3. Maintain this new schedule.
If you are not okay with the new wake time then do the following:
1. Wake your child at the desired wake time. Expect your child to take a few days to adjust to being woken up.
2. Naps at the proper amount of wake time.
3. Plan for bedtime to be a the regular time which may feel like an hour earlier to your child. It will take time to adapt.
4. Be patient as this will take at least a week for your child to adapt to the time change.
The third thing you can do is go with the flow and adjust with your child as their bodies adapt.
This is most likely what we will do. I will put on my big girl panties and by patient with the little man while he gets used to the clock changes.
The final and most important thing is that you do not stress out!!
As with everything related to children, the calmer you can be the easier the transition is.
Take Care and Happy Sleeping!!
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Jerylin Gan, Ph.D.
You may wonder who is Jerylin Gan, Ph.D.? Well, let me fill you in. Jerylin is currently an amazing stay at home mom with a passion
Today I want to talk about signs that it may be time for your child to stop their daytime nap. This can be a sad day for parents. Trust me. I do understand and have lived through it. There are some things you should start to look for that may be an indicator that your child just really does not need that afternoon nap any longer.
Most children will continue to happily take their nap. They will seem tired. They will go down well.
They will sleep for a good two-hour nap. The problem arises at bedtime. They are just not tired enough at 7:00 PM to settle in for the night. This is when the games begin.
I will never forget the bedtime antics that occurred when our son began making bedtime an ordeal. I seriously began to wonder if I was in the right field of work.
Then he would wake up tired the next morning, need his afternoon nap, party until 9:00 PM and this whole cycle just continued. Once we dropped the nap our son was asleep by 7 PM and slept until 7:00 AM.
I like having my evening free. However, I have had clients who tell me, they would like to continue with the nap. It is perfectly fine to keep the afternoon nap. You just need to know then that bedtime is going to be a little bit later.
By later I mean 8:00 PM to 8:30 PM. Try not to go any later than that.
Once you’ve made the decision, just go for it. The nap is gone; however, every few days you may find that your little one is an emotional mess. I would suggest a nap that day with a later bedtime. The transition to no nap can take 4 to 6 weeks.
When you are not offering a nap, quiet activities help your child re-energize. Some children do well with quiet time in their rooms (reading books, playing with toys) and some do not like it. For those that do not like it, I suggest having some quiet go to activities they can play with. Our favourites were playing with rice, play dough, and playing in the sink.
Even if it is a bit of a tough slog some days, just know that once their body has adjusted to this they are going to have lots of stamina to make it through the day.
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