Every parent wants their children to get a good night’s rest. Our sleeping time is when our body’s immune system is most efficient. It’s when our body’s physically grow and heal from injury. Sleep is the best form of stress management. But, for moms and dads, as you are putting your children to bed, there’s an art to the process.
Five year old Mandy wants to stay up as late as her 10 year old sister, with whom she shares a bedroom. Daddy cuddles her as she tearfully protests going to bed before sissy. He active listens her feelings and she calms. He asks, “Can I share some things with you that I know because I’m so smart and you don’t because you’re just a squirt?” Mandy giggles and agrees to hear him out.
Dismissing your child’s protest, yelling at her, and demanding in bed, lights out, no talking, is the worst way to put a child to bed. Their adrenaline spikes, stress levels elevate, fear sets in, and the absolute last thing they can do is fall asleep. They will eventually fatigue and their eyes will close, but this is not a restful sleep.
Studies show that newborns will sleep upwards from 15 hours/day. Toddlers up to age 5 need at least 12 hours for growth and calm mood. School-age children benefit most from at least 10 hours of sleep a night. Teens and adults are recommended to have at least 8 hours/night. The average sleep time nationally for teens and adults, however is 7 hours, 28 minutes. So, as a whole, we are sleep deprived.
To give your child the best bedtime routine, focus on routine and look for teachable moments. Usually, a rule of thumb is allowing 30 minutes of calming activity before lights out. Calming activity includes, depending on age, rocking, bedtime stories, singing lullabyes, and talking about day’s events. These are all teachable moments and emotional bonding time. Multiple requests for more drink, multiple bathroom breaks, forgetting to brush teeth, one more, pleaaase requests are all excuses and stalls, which need to be firmly shut down. Consistent routines and creative, personalized rituals make for pleasant childhood memories and sweet dreams.