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Handling Bedtime

For many families, bedtime seems to stretch much later than they’d like. But why do children do this?

We have an inkling: fear of missing out. Your child wants to be part of the action and stay up like the rest of the family. This is perfectly normal, of course, but it can get tiring.

How can you keep bedtime within your desired window of time?

> Try to be 100% present

For toddlers, the bedtime ritual takes about an hour. For elementary school children, it should be half an hour. Therefore, you should try to be there for your child during this time. For example, it can be tempting to do the laundry or check your phone while your child puts on their pajamas. But, if you’re not present (both physically and emotionally), chances are that your child will seek more attention from you.

> Be clear…

If your child is afraid of missing out on something, acknowledge that feeling. “I know it’s hard to go to sleep when you know your brother can stay downstairs for a while longer.” But it’s important to be clear: “It’s bedtime for you now, and for me, it’s Mommy/Daddy time.” The more consistent and clear you make their sleep schedule, the easier it will be for your child to stay in bed.

>… and stay clear.

Does your child get out of bed anyway? Calmly guide them back to bed each time without explanation. When doing this, try to make as little eye contact as possible. If your child keeps nagging you, explain that you will spend time with them tomorrow. Respond with as few words as possible.

> Brainstorm together

Does your child still keep getting out of bed at night? Then, it’s time to start problem-solving by brainstorming some ideas together. Don’t do this at bedtime, but choose a later, specific moment. Explain to your child that his head and body need to rest, and that’s why sleep is so important. Find a solution together and let your child give input.

> Create a safe space

Some children find it frightening to be left alone in their beds. They might feel anxious and unsafe. Toddlers, in particular, may have a sudden awareness that they are all alone in a dark room. Feeling safe is essential. To help them, place a picture of you next to their bed and give your child an assigned sleeping buddy (a plush toy). Turn on a light in the hallway and let your child know that you will stay nearby.