Establishing a Bed Time Routine

Here is a valuable device that really helps children rest their weary heads without the threat of nuclear fission on the home front: Ritual.

Ritual as the backdrop to almost any activity creates a rhythm that is as calming to your child as listening to your heartbeat as you hug him close, or trying to match the rise and fall of his breathing to your own. Ritual can be simple or involved. It can be many things, or just one thing.

If your child always follows the same order of preparation for bedtime, this is a kind of ritual. If you are looking for parenting tips, ritual is invaluable and powerful!

For example, in my home, we follow this order on a daily basis:

  • Clean up toys. (If you need some parenting tips on this, see "It's Bed Time!")
  • Eat dinner.
  • Change into pajamas.
  • Place dirty clothes in hamper.
  • Sponge bath (face, neck, behind the ears, arms and hands with a soapy washcloth and sometimes the use of a nailbrush) or tub bath.
  • Brush teeth.
  • One last trip to the lavatory.
  • Story.
  • Prayers.
  • Nightlight and child's choice of bed time cassette tape.
  • Kisses and hugs.
  • One last communiqué: "Goodnight. Sleep tight. Don't let the bedbugs bite. I'll see you in the morning. I lo-o-o-ove you!"

It's possible you are already doing many of the items listed above in your own home. Perhaps you change the order of your child's rituals from day to day. If you do what is comfortable for you, your child will feel a sense of ritual, but following a close order every day is the most effective way of creating a sense of rhythm for both you and your child and this can help him to find a way to give in to sleep with good grace.

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