Raising children is an adventure in chaos, spilled milk, wet diapers, skinned knees, and later broken hearts. It is astounding for some to learn that children crave routines and stability. Yet, with all that happens in the wider world, even if it remains unexpressed, the knowledge that they have a place where comfort, food, and rest can be found offers much reassurance. A healthy amount of sleep is vital to a growing child; to encourage this children need a bedtime routine. Insufficient sleep has been linked to: ADHD symptoms, a weakened immune system, obesity, anxiety, depression, and may increase the risk for developing diabetes. An adequate amount of rest is a vital element in physical and emotional well being. Encouraging a child to develop healthy sleep habits needs to be a priority and involving yourself in the routine certainly counts as quality time.
As a parent, it is your job to provide structure for your child. Establishing a bedtime routine does not need to be complicated; bathing, brushing teeth, a story, and perhaps a prayer. If praying is not for your family, consider quietly discussing the day. Encourage your child to mention things he or she is thankful for and areas in which they struggle. These bedtime conversations are a wonderful opportunity for a child to process their feelings and give insight into their world.
"But Little Johnny always throws a fit if he can't watch TV until he falls asleep!" Routines take time to establish. Colloquial wisdom says it takes twenty-one days to establish a habit and at least as long to break one. When creating a new pattern for a child it is important to realize that they see new techniques as an anomaly. Eliminate potential objections before they are spoken. With young children common stalling tactics include: I'm hungry, I'm thirsty, I need to go to the bathroom, and I'm scared of the dark. If necessary, make a healthy snack a part of the child's winding down routine, a glass or sippy of water, a pre-tucking-in bathroom visit, and a nightlight or flashlight to help ease the child toward sleep.
If you are the parent of a strong-willed child prepare yourself mentally to be gentle yet firm. If a child insists on getting out of bed after you have finished the routine, walk them back each and every time and say nothing more than, "Goodnight." It is hard to ignore whining, crying, and fussing, but as the routine becomes habit these tactics will lessen as a child learns that they are ineffective.
Be patient, this new endeavor may take time. You are building a history with the child. Some children will quickly adopt the new pattern while others will struggle. Know that creating a healthy bedtime routine gives a child a feeling of security and having a few moments to yourself at the end of a long day is a nice bonus, too.