Changing our bedtime routine made our evenings so much easier – and here's why
Even before becoming a parent myself, I had heard many horror stories about bedtime with kids.
Kids who wouldn't sleep. Hours or hours of negotiations. Kids who woke up a million times every night. tears, tantrums, drama, drama, drama.
But funnily enough, having now been a parent for a decade, I kind of think bedtime is my most favourite time of day in our house.
More out of a need for some order than anything else, as I was on my own with her a lot as my husband was studying abroad, I started a bedtime routine with my little girl when she was only a couple of months old. It just went a little something like bath, pyjamas, her last breastfeed of the day, a little song, then bed (both of us, as I ended up co-sleeping).
As she got a little older we introduced a book in bed, and the nursing session was swapped out for a little meal, but still, the routine remained the same. And when my little boy joined our brood when she was three, we kept it up, somehow just merging the baby routine with her toddler one, and it worked.
And still, to this day, we have our routine in place. Bath (or sometimes, when we are short of time, a shower), a snuggle in bed, two books and then we cuddle up until they are asleep – at which point I get back up again – until it's time for my own bedtime.
And it turns out, it might this very routine that has kept our bedtime so lovely all these years.
I think we can all agree that the routine of a bedtime ritual is comforting, and will help calm children down before bedtime. But as parents, I think we rarely reflect on the effect the bedtime routine has on ourselves. At least one suggests that regular routines buffer/decrease parenting stress, which in turn has a positive effect on children's emotions, behavioural regulation and readiness to learn.
Curious as to why you really should start a bedtime routine? Here are some of the amazing benefits:
- Reading books gives kids the touch they need through cuddling and lap sitting. Book time also helps kids learn new concepts, language and pre-reading skills.
- Brushing teeth and putting on pyjamas help kids build independence and skills for self-care.
- Getting little ones that last drink of water, fixing their blankets and tucking them in reinforces your role as their nurturing .
- Telling your children that you love them, that you're proud of them, and that you notice all the little positive things they are doing reminds them that, despite any conflicts or tense moments, they will always be your favourite people in the world.
- Giving a good night hug and kindness without saying a word.
One of the things I love most about bedtime is that it is a lovely time to have a little chat about our day. When we lie there, all close together in our jammies, it is by far the most intimate and quiet time of our day, and I find that often, it is when they will open up the most and tell me about things they think about or that they have on their minds.
Children spend much of their days being talked to or taught, but it's also essential to create some space for them to lead the conversations.
Taking time to just listen at bedtime leaves room for kids to tell you the stories of their lives without the pressure of answering direct questions (like “how was school?" or “who did you play with at recess?"). And what this does, is strengthen your bond and initiate a healthy conversation pattern that can persist through to adulthood.