By Natalie Bascur
From endless social media posts preaching about well-behaved children to Pinterest shares of perfect lunchboxes, parenting today is harder than ever. Just get them into a routine and bedtime will be a cinch, so everyone says! While a routine is important, it often takes a lot more than the ‘Groundhog day’ routine of bath, pjs, brush and bed, followed by telling your kids it’s time to go to sleep at 7pm to get them happily off to dreamland.
Well, don’t fret, mama. Here are a few handy pointers, five to be exact, on how to get kids to sleep better.
Put your kid hat on
Think back to when you were a kid. Treat them as you would want to be treated and respect their need to be independent and make small, manageable decisions for themselves. Part of the reason kids argue so much at bedtime is they often want to have control over it and think they know best. While you are the mama and know best, try to let them have one input into their evening routine. You decide that they are having a bath and brushing and when they are doing so. Then they get to negotiate with one decision for the final step. This could be a bedtime story, some warm milk in place of water, a favourite song sung, or a favourite animal sketch by mum. My personal fav is a spontaneous story made up and continued each night adding in more adventures and characters. If they feel they are getting to decide one thing it may help them relinquish control to the mama that knows when they are sleepy.
Room for activities
Something super important is making sure your kids are actually tired enough come bedtime. Sounds silly, but we are living in different times than when we were brought up. While we were out playing with friends in the neighbourhood or backyard until dinnertime, the norm today is more playstation and tv after school like their friends. In order to really get kids rested, make sure they have one physical activity every day. This could be shooting hoops, after school sport, helping take a dog for a walk or mum carry groceries at the shops and unpack them. Whatever ensures they burn up some of their extra energy that they may not get out at school, and avoids the frustration from them not being sleepy, and mama being exhausted.
Like bedtime, try as much as is possible to have dinner time at a set time, with enough food to keep bellies full all the way to bedtime. A big meal with water and not too much sugar will help keep their moods steady and stop the highs and lows of energy occurring.
Wind down, calm down
Avoid exciting activities for one hour before allocated bedtime. This means no computers, tv, video games and phones. Try dimming overhead lights an hour before bedtime, swapping the action noises of a tv for some relaxing tunes, and letting them pick a quiet activity to swap their earlier ones for. This could be a card or board game that is not too stimulating, some drawing or painting, a book with pics to flick through, or a craft activity. Whatever is individual to your child that you know they will enjoy, but won’t over excite them.
In place of a night light, try adding fairy lights to your child’s room instead. This will give them more to look at when they are trying to sleep, while allowing them to feel safe and not scared of the dark. It also helps their imagination more than a little plug in light.
Put calming essential oils on your child’s favourite soft toy or blanket. Try mixing lavender with tea tree or eucalyptus oil for anti-bacterial properties. You can also put a couple of drops of lavender on little ones pillows to help when they roll over. Some other relaxing oils are Patchouli, Ylang Ylang and Cedarwood. Let them pick their fav smell at night, it can also be added in a diffuser if that works better for you. Whatever will relax those busy minds and ease anxiousness and worry.
Make sure the bed they sleep on is comfortable and warm enough, with options to easily take off a top layer if they feel too warm.
If it’s too quiet for them, add in a routine of a bedtime vaporisor or fan to allow for some background noise that in turn keeps them breathing well or cool, whichever is uniquely best for your child.
Breathe, sleep, repeat.
“I’m just a girl, standing in front of a clock, asking it to be my kids’ bedtime.” ~ Meredith Ethington
You may also like MOTHERHOOD: Why Mondays are the New Fridays and MELISSA AMBROSINI: 5 Ways to Max your (Minimal) Sleep.