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27Nov 13

Beating the bedtime blues: How to get your children to sleep

Beating the bedtime blues is a challenge for many parents. I should know! My kids Tom and Mary have given me many headaches at bedtime, particularly in their first year at school.

It’s common sense that a newborn needs a consistent sleep schedule, but toddlers and school-age children also need a regular bedtime routine if tears and tantrums are to be avoided when it’s time to go to sleep. Children require adequate rest to be healthy and happy, but I think it is also essential to help them get the most out of the end of their day.

Beating the bedtime blues

Beating the bedtime blues

Making bedtime enjoyable

Battling to get children to bed can be stressful for parents who are tired themselves at the end of a busy working day. The secret is to throw some fun into the mix. Here are a few suggestions:

• Plan calm activities before bedtime that you and your kids can enjoy together, such as reading a book or playing a board game, and make it part of the routine.

• Announce bedtime in advance and not in the middle of their favourite television show. Children will inevitably kick up a fuss!

• Avoid letting the television or a computer game become their last focal point before bedtime. What’s worked for me is to allow Tom and Mary to watch TV once they have finished their homework. When the programme is finished, we move on to other things.

• Read a bedtime story. This activity works for toddlers as well as for older children. With older children, make sure that the book is age-appropriate, and take turns reading aloud. I try to read with my kids every night before they hit the pillow.

Banishing bedtime fears

Bedtime should be a time of winding down. Focused preparation is usually the most successful route to a peaceful end of day and an uneventful night. But good preparation does not always eliminate children’s separation anxiety. They often cannot get to sleep because they are afraid of the dark or of strange noises.

It is easy for parents to respond too sympathetically to these issues, encouraging their children to form bad habits. These might include the need to sleep with parents, continually getting out of bed, or refusing to go to bed.

It’s important not to allow your child to call the shots at bedtime. Good parenting is about establishing the right environment for sleep as well as rules and expectations for bedtime.

What are your tips for avoiding the bedtime blues?

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