Getting your kids to bed is hard. They don't want to go to bed yet, they want these pjs not those, they need 10 bedtime stories, now they need water.... Getting the kids finally settled can be exhausting especially when you are already exhausted. I'm usually on my own for bedtime since my husband mostly works nights. Because of this, I have developed a process that gets both kids to sleep without fuss 6 out of 7 days a week.
Have an Evening Routine
Every evening since my daughter was born, we have pretty much had the same evening routine. After daddy goes to work and dinner is cleaned up, its playtime for the 3 of us. Usually this is puzzles or climbing or action figures. Sometimes its chasing the dogs.
Whatever it is, by 7:45 its time to wind down. At this time, Hailey goes into her rocker and hopefully off to sleep. Since the kids share a room, she sleeps here until I go to bed so she doesn't get disturbed during my son's bedtime routine. Then for the last half hour my son and I either do a craft or we watch a show. At 8:15 its time for Tyler to get ready for bed.
Most days, this is how our evening goes. This helps my son be prepared for bedtime. We don't start new adventures just before bed hiding under tents or wrestling our wrestling buddy, John Cena. When Tyler sees Hailey go to bed, he knows its wind down time.
Set a Bedtime Routine
You might notice a theme here. Kids thrive when they have a routine. They like to know what is expected of them. For Tyler, we have a set order to bedtime. We put on his jammies, brush his teeth, read a book/snuggle, sing a song, and then he goes to bed. He knows this routine. If I get distracted and forget that we didn't brush his teeth yet, he reminds me. The routine is a comfort and again lets his body know that it's time for bed.
My son does not like to go to bed by himself. He can't yet verbalize what it is that is so disconcerting, but for him the fear is real. As parents we have to accept that. As much as I would love to be off the clock as soon as Tyler's head hits the sheets, that's not the reality.
If I go downstairs to get on with my evening plans (read: grad school homework) I know that I will get called back up several times. This will frustrate both me and my son. Someone will start crying, there will be foot stomping, all in all a rough night.
Instead, I assume that I will be sitting with him at least a few minutes at bedtime. In fact, I plan for it. I bring my textbook into his room to read or start my homework. He knows that I am doing work and so I'm not there to shoot the breeze, but my presence is comforting.
You may not have school work, but you can catch up on social media, read a book, bring that day's mail into the room and sort through it. The point is to bring something quiet that you can do that allows your child to fall asleep and is a good use of your time. Just don't allow your kids to start conversations, this will keep them up longer. Let them know that you are there to keep them company, but you need quiet to get what you need to do done.
Once Tyler is asleep, I'm free!! Free to do homework that is. Hopefully, you get to do something more fun! For many kids, the problem with bedtime is that they feel ill prepared to go to bed because there was no transition from play to bedtime, or they have anxiety about going to bed by themselves. If your child falls into one of these two categories, this system should help.
You may be putting in a little time up front by sitting with them in their rooms at bedtime, but you will be far less frustrated and they are likely to go to bed faster. The times and specific activities listed in our routine above can be changed to fit you and your family. The point is to have a wind down activity, a set bedtime routine, and to stay in the room if they have anxiety about falling asleep alone.
Try this system out with your family and give it a few weeks for you and your kids to get used to it. If you previously had bedtime troubles, let me know if this helps. Here's to happier evenings!