1. Routine: Babies and children thrive in routine. Routine is a regular procedure. The actions are unvarying and somewhat mechanical. At times you will probably think it’s boring. However, to a child routine is very important and if you establish regular actions they will become a habit.
2. Make your routine pleasant. Start by telling your children how lovely their bed is, that the comforter is so cosy and that Teddy is waiting. Don’t feed them the line that they have to go to bed as if they are missing out on something but rather that something special is their bed. How something is portrayed will communicate positively or negatively to your child.
3. Start preparing before bedtime. For example a bath has a calming soothing effect. Most children like to go in the bath, and if used as the starter of the bedtime routine, can trigger the “ah ha” in their brain that says its bedtime.
4. Unplug them ahead of time. By unplug I mean turn off the images that are flashing in front of their eyes. Television, Wii, computer, electronic games all fit in this category. The eyes are the windows to the soul and you want their soul to rest. This will also help curtail night terrors.
5. On their way to bed have them say good night to others. This brings closure to their day. A story is always a good thing to share before you turn off the lights.
6. As you put them to bed close the curtains. Some people are very sensitive to light (me for one) and blackout curtains are very helpful. If you don’t have blackout curtains use aluminium foil on the windows. It’s cost effective and works very well.
7. We put soft music on to comfort them as they went off to sleep. It needs to be age appropriate of course, but nothing loud or raucous. We would also turn on a fan in their room when they were younger. This was the suggestion of our family doctor when the twins were running a fever. It kept them cooler but it is very handy for white noise and helps drown out the noise of the rest of the house. Some children are sound sleepers while other will wake up the moment you walk into the room.
8. Tell them you love them and that you will see them in the morning. Kiss them good night and close the door behind you.
9. Be consistent in your routine. If you religiously keep to your routine you will establish good sleeping habits in your children and children need sleep!
I know some of you are thinking … what if they cry or get out of bed. We will look at some of these issues next week.