One of the hardest parts of my day is doing the bedtime routine.
In an ideal world, bedtime is sacred time. Time to cuddle, snuggle and connect after being away from each other all day. Time to feel physical and emotional togetherness. To help our children’s minds and nervous systems unwind. To have loving conversation and enjoy storytelling to help them settle into a peaceful sleep.
But it doesn’t often work out that way! We parents all have those times when we are just shattered after a busy day and still have a ton of things to do before we can relax and go to bed ourselves. So, we end up rushing the kids off to bed as quickly as we can.
It can feel like a flurry of hurried activity, trying hastily to get everyone settled and asleep at a reasonable time. Frustration kicks in, as it’s often when the kids come alive with questions, demands and things they want to say or do before they go to bed, and also when they will start playing up as the tired/wired kicks in.
Often, I’ve found myself reading my boys a story before bed and I don’t even know what I’ve read, as I’ve had the to-do list trawling through my mind. I wasn’t present at all. I went through the motions of saying “I love you, night night” but it wasn’t done with true meaning, rather just another thing to get done.
But how does it leave you feeling? Sometimes I get into bed and when I think about how rushed I was with my kids, guilt washes over me as this is not the mum I want to be.
Life is busy, but how about we use a little mindfulness to help us?
Tips for Bedtime
Here are some tips that I have introduced in my own routine to help bedtime feel more calm and peaceful.
1. Mentally Prepare Ahead
As bed time approaches I set the intention that I want to be calm and attentive to my kids. So I will begin to slow down my activity, take slower breaths, and focus on what my outcome is (to have a happy and relaxed bedtime with my children). If you are clear on what you want, it’s easier to achieve it.
2. Start Getting Ready for Bedtime Earlier
If I plan to get my kids to bed for 7.30pm, its almost always 8pm-8.15pm before they are settled. So I’ve learnt to start getting them ready for bed much earlier, in order to allow extra time for them procrastinating, squabbling, stopping brushing their teeth to ask questions, suddenly getting hungry or needing a poo…you name it my boys have tried it!
3. Take Care of Your Needs First
Eat something, go to the toilet, have a drink to hand, so that your basic needs are met while you do bedtime. You can’t be present and relaxed if your blood sugar is dropping because you have an empty tummy, or your throat is dry or you’re desperate for a wee. It’s a recipe for losing your rag with everyone if they play up. I usually take a cup of tea and a big glass of water with me into their bedroom.
4. Get Comfortable
You will feel happier about doing bedtime if you feel comfortable. So if you are telling a story, get in good position for you to read and feel relaxed, maybe use a cushion to support your back, have a duvet over you and your kids so you are all snuggled. You need to feel comfortable to be present.
5. Give it Some Welly
Sometimes the last thing I want to do at the end of the day is read a story. When I feel this way, I’ve learnt to go all out! So read with gusto and drama, give the characters accents, use different tones, pull faces – be theatrical! This will not only make your kids absolutely love the story and be really engaged, it will keep you focussed and in the present moment. It really makes the whole experience a lot more fun!
6. Introduce Rituals
Try to have some bedtime rituals to help get the kids settle quickly. My boys like to have their back tickled or a little massage. I’m an Angel Therapist so they like me to spray some angel essence sprays in their room. They also like me to put lavender on their pillow. Sometimes I try to read from a children’s meditation book. These little actions as they get into bed act as a signal for their brain that its sleep time. And they simply enjoy it too.
Each child is different so discover what ritual works for your child.
7. Be Kind to Yourself
Don’t beat yourself up if things don’t go to plan! Some days we’ve just got to do what we can with the energy reserves we have in us. Sometimes a simple cuddle and ‘I love you’ is all you can manage with any sincerity. Some nights there will be upsets and dramas. There will always be times when we have to rush around.
This isn’t about adding more pressure on yourself, it’s about making a part of your day more relaxing and enjoyable for you – when you can. Because bedtime is something parents need to do every day! So, we may as well make it as smooth and peaceful for ourselves and our kids as possible.