I’m often asked: What is a good bedtime routine?
However, if I were to read between the lines, I would guess the parents asking this question are in reality wanting to ask: What is the perfect bedtime routine that will avoid all of the bedtime struggles and help my kid fall asleep quickly?
I often find that parents get stuck doing as much as possible at bedtime in hopes that one magic formula of a routine will alleviate bedtime stress and help the child fall asleep as quickly as possible. However, the more we do, it seems the more challenging bedtime gets; am I right?!
In this blog, I will give some steps to a bedtime routine that works for every child (yes, every child!).
How can we help our children to feel relaxed and ready for bed?
One thing we can do is to learn our children and what helps calm them and customize a bedtime routine that fits our specific child’s needs:
If your child seems excited after a warm bath, a bath might not be the best thing to add to your bedtime routine because of your specific child’s sensory needs. If your child feels calm and loved after wrestling with daddy, maybe a tiny, friendly wrestling match needs to be added to your child’s bedtime routine. Your child’s bedtime routine doesn’t have to look like a stereotypical bedtime routine if it works for YOUR child.
However, a customized bedtime routine in and of itself won’t achieve that calm, fulfilling bedtime your family is craving; four factors that communicate calm and safety for every child (and human for that matter), that will help your child’s heart, mind, and body to feel satisfied and ready to move into sleep:
1. Be fully present:
Can you commit to yourself that you will leave your phone and whatever else is taking up brain space in another room and be fully present for whatever the bedtime routine might have to offer? What you are choosing to be fully present for might not be very enjoyable. You might have to be fully present for a tantrum or some pent-up feelings from the day that is being purged. Or you might be fully present for some life-giving moments: a hug, an adorable moment, a loving smile. But when you are fully present, you are communicating to your child that “you are the most important thing to me right now, and your needs have my full attention.” When you are fully present, you can be attentive, and when you are attentive, you can more easily and intuitively meet the unspoken needs of your kiddos and shift them into a calm and peaceful state.
2. Regulate with your voice:
Studies have found that a mom’s voice can be just as comforting as a hug for a child. Children are wired to experience the tone of voice we use when our babies are upset and become regulated by it. The more we can use this calming and loving tone of voice during our bedtime routine, the more our children will feel grounded and ready for sleep. Here are some ideas on how to incorporate your voice into your sleep routine:
- Read a book to your kiddo (It’s best to do this sitting up rather than laying down)
- Tell your kiddo a story (sitting up)
- Sing an interactive song with your kiddo
- Take turns to share your favorite things about the day (credit to my amazing client for this lovely idea!)
- Pray with your child
3. Smile with your eyes and mouth:
Because the muscles that cause us to smile with our eyes are connected to the same nervous system that communicates safety when we smile with our eyes, a message of safety and calm is communicated. Communicating this feeling of safety with our body rather than just our words is incredibly powerful.
4. Make sure they know that they are loved:
Before you leave the room for the night, hold your child’s face in your hands and tell them how much you love them. With this being the last thing they remember every night and a memory they will carry with them for the rest of their lives. <3
Communicating calm, love, and safety through your presence, voice, smile, and words will mean more to them than any intricate, never-ending bedtime routine you can create.
I invite you to include these intentional steps in your child’s bedtime routine for a week and share with me how it has helped shift your child’s bedtime into a more peaceful and fulfilling time.
Sometimes, even with our very intentional loving bedtime routine suggested here, our children’s nervous system is experiencing messages of dis-ease during the day that carry over to bedtime despite our best efforts. Helping families learn precisely where these messages of dis-ease are coming from and assisting families to move these children’s bodies from a dysregulated state into a state of calm and balance is what I love coaching families to do.
Please don’t hesitate to reach out for support if sleep time is simply difficult for you and your child.