According to Samantha Stern, training and development director for Ebenezer Child Care Centers, “Parents play an important role in helping their children fall asleep by establishing good sleeping habits and appropriate bed times.”
Here are some basic tips you can use to help your children.
Setting Regular Bedtimes Stern recommends establishing regular bedtimes for your children. “Children thrive on routines, because they find comfort in knowing what to expect,” says Stern.
Most pediatricians agree that children ages one to three should be getting approximately 10-13 hours of sleep per night. Preschoolers need 10-12 hours. Children ages six to nine should get 10 hours of shut eye, and children ages 10-12 need a little over nine hours. Stern also recommends establishing a bedtime routine that lasts 20-30 minutes before your children’s actual bedtime. It can include quiet time reading, taking a bath, or some other relaxing activity that helps your children calm down before they get into bed.
Avoid Eating or Drinking Before Bed
Stern says that you shouldn’t allow your children to drink anything with caffeine at least six hours before you want them to go to bed, because it could prevent them from calming down. She also recommends that you don’t feed your children large meals too close to bedtime.
Avoid Scary Television Shows, Movies, or Books
Children have tremendous imaginations, and for this reason, avoid any scary television shows, movies, or books after dinner. Stern says these images can stay with your children as they crawl into bed and prevent them from being able to fall asleep.
Make Sure Your Children Are Comfortable
Stern says to make sure your children are comfortable when they crawl into bed. This means making sure their room is the appropriate temperature, that they are dressed warm or cool enough, and that they have plenty of blankets that do not restrict their movement.
Stern adds that this might also include making sure they have some resources to overcome their fears and comfort them such as a nightlight or favorite stuffed animal. Stern does not recommend rocking or singing your children to sleep in an effort to comfort them, because if they wake up in the middle of the night, they may not be able to fall back asleep without your assistance. Rather, she urges parents to help teach children how to find comfort by themselves by snuggling with a blanket or stuffed animal.
“If Your Children Do Get out of Bed,” Stern says that if your children do get out of bed after bedtime, you need to return them quickly to bed and remind them that it is bedtime. Tell them they can earn a sticker for staying in bed, and after staying in bed for four nights, they will earn a small reward. “Bedtime doesn’t have to be a struggle,” says Stern. “It just requires a little thought and planning, so everybody can get a good night’s rest.”