Now, he sees sleep as something to be avoided for as long as possible. I have tried to explain the joys of a short snooze, but he simply rolls his eyes at me and sternly states that he is not a baby who dozes off throughout the day.
There is a relatively new public service announcement on television at night, reminding parents and children that youngsters need to be in bed at 9:30 on school nights so that they are rested and ready for school the next morning. When I saw the ad for the first time, my first reaction was to hope that my own son did not see it because his bedtime is 8:30 at night and I was sure that he would see this as yet another chance to lobby for a later nightly curfew.
Since my son has an early bedtime, he did not see this announcement until the weekend, when he does get to go to bed an hour later. “Why,” he asked, “do I have to go to bed earlier on weekdays than that man on the television says I need to?” I told him that from experience, we found that he had an easier time getting up in the morning for school if he goes to bed by 8:30 in the evening at the latest. If he goes to sleep later than that, it is a struggle in the morning to get him up, dressed and fed with a good breakfast before we start off for our walk to school. I tried to explain to him that when he has more sleep at night, he will be more alert during the day, which will make school much more fun and help make learning easier. He eyed me doubtfully and did not seem to be convinced. “But all of my friends go to bed much later than I do,” he whined. The fact that he is required to go to bed earlier than any of his other friends has long been a sore spot for him, but he knows that it is a rule that does not get bent in our home.
No matter what time you have set for your child to go to bed, there are several suggestions from experts to make the transition from activity to sleep easier for children as well as for the parents. First of all, have a fixed time to go to bed and to get up in the morning. Having a set bedtime from a young age will help your child get ready to go to sleep.
The hour before bedtime arrives is a good time to help your child begin to wind down from their day’s activities. Try encouraging a quiet playtime, reading together, drawing or listening to soothing music to help your child begin to calm down in preparation to go to sleep. This is also a good time to sit with your child and talk to them about their day. Often they will want to discuss issues at school or problems that they are having with their friends. By giving your child a chance to talk about anything that is bothering them, they may be more relaxed and ready for a good night’s sleep.
Before bedtime, dedicate 20 minutes or so to the same routine. Experts suggest having three things that are always done in the same order, at the same time every night to help your child get ready for bedtime. No matter where we are traveling or spending the night, my son and I have the same set routine, and this helps him make the adjustment from his daytime activities to bedtime.
If you have a young child who still takes naps in the afternoon, try to be as consistent as possible with their nap times so that their nighttime routine is not disturbed. If you are traveling, it is especially important to try to maintain some sort of routine so that your child can adjust to new time zones and unfamiliar settings.
While my son does not yet appreciate how welcome a good night’s sleep can be, he has learned that there is a nonnegotiable time for him to get into bed and drift off to sleep on school days. On weekends, he looks forward to being able to push his bedtime back an hour later, but we still have the same set routine. It is a time for us to sit together, relax and talk. Someday he will understand my love of quick naps, but for now, I’m happy with him getting into bed and off to sleep on time.
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