You’re looking forward to a quiet evening with your partner – maybe watch your favorite TV show or just sit and chat. But, first, you have to put your toddler or young child to bed. By the time, you’ve read the story, read the next story, brought the drink, brought the next drink and listened to all the fussing, you’re not ready to enjoy the evening. Here are 5 tips to help your child get to sleep and you to get your time back!
1. The Nap. You’re going to have to make a judgement call here. Some experts say daytime napping should end around 2 years old; others say around 3 years. So, how do you know? Pay attention and write it down. If your child skips his nap, what are the consequences? If he or she is still happy and goes to bed easily, naptime may not be needed. On the other hand, if the child is cranky and so overtired that going to bed at night is more difficult, hang on to the nap. However, end the nap by around 4 so it doesn’t create a later bedtime.
2. Routine. This is one that has all the experts agreeing. A bedtime routine is the beginning of your child going to bed more easily. It may be hard for a busy family, but having a regular bedtime and creating a routine like bath, book and bed will signal the child that the day is over.Don’t ignore this one. Work out a routine that works for your family.
3. The Biological Clock. This is what the routine is all about. Your child needs to go to bed and his or her body needs to know, too. You don’t want your child to be pumped full of cortisol or adrenaline at bedtime so help your child’s body turn on the sleep-making hormone, melatonin.Dim lights about an hour before bedtime and create a calm routine that winds down the day and winds down the child.
4. A Cozy Bed and Restful Bedroom. All children have periods of light sleep or slight wakefulness if you want to look at it from the other side. You don’t want that time turn into wide awake. Make sure the child has a comfortable bed. Keep the room dark with blackout curtains or shades. If the child’s room is close to a room where there is still activity or a TV running, consider a white noise machine. If the child kicks off the covers, make sure they go to sleep dressed appropriately so they remain comfortable. For example, consider footed p.j.’s in the winter.
5. A Free Pass. Children learn that if they fuss long enough and hard enough, the adults usually show up and give in. If your child is old enough to understand the concept, create a free bedtime pass that’s good for just one thing – one more short story, one more hug, one more drink of water, etc. When the child pulls out the pass and you respond, take the pass away. The child will have enough control to ask for one more thing but know that’s where it ends. After the pass is used (or if the child is too young to use one), all the fussing has to be ignored until the child learns fussing doesn’t work.
Once you get a working and workable schedule that has your child drifting off to dreamland, it’s time for you and your partner to enjoy a quiet evening and your own good night’s rest. Create your own routine to help you drift away and make sure your bed and bedroom are welcoming and cozy. If your mattress is old enough so you’re not getting proper support, consider a new mattress. You’ll find affordable, highly-recommended latex mattresses available through online retailers. Dim your lights; shut off all screens and join your child in dreamland.