I don’t know any parent who hasn’t experienced some kind of struggle with their kids at bedtime. There’s a reason for the extreme popularity of the book Go the F&@k to Sleep. Reading stories is always an important part of our night-time ritual but I also use a few other tools that have saved my sanity and helped my little ones slip into slumber with greater ease. Some worked for a few months, some a few weeks, some are used on rotation, and some have become a standard part of our bedtime routine. While bedtime is not always calm and serene in our house, all of these practices—at different stages of my kids’ development—have helped us (and the kids) better survive the crazy witching hours.
There was a period when my daughter became afraid of things: The dark; her closet; shadows; having nightmares. I came up with an idea of placing sweet dreams and love in her mind before she fell asleep. So, each night, after stories and before lights out, I would pretend to open a little door on her forehead. I would take out any bad thoughts or yucky imaginings, and I would put in a thousand kisses, lots of love, and many sweet dreams. I’d then close the door and seal it with a kiss.
The night-time is when my kids (as I’m sure all kids do) mentally process every little thing that has happened to them throughout their days. Their minds seem to be on overdrive and that’s not conducive to falling asleep. Meditation is a great tool to help calm their minds and encourage them to let go of the thought clutter that can keep them from sleeping. I will guide them through: a mini relaxation meditation, which encourages them to relax each part of the body; a breathing relaxation, which allows them to focus on their inhalations and exhalations; or a guided journey for the imagination. Shifting the focus of their thoughts allows them to change their mental gears, and enter into a calmer, quieter mindset.
Sometimes my kids are so physically wired from their daily activities, they find it hard to calm their bodies, let alone their minds. My husband and I began giving massages to the kids when they were little, and it has become an almost nightly ritual. We massage their backs, shoulders, arms, legs and faces. Often by the time we get to their faces, they’re half asleep and ready to be tucked in and kissed good night. Not only does it prepare them for a deep slumber, I believe we’re also teaching our kids the power of relaxation and body awareness.
Ending the day with thoughts of all I have to be thankful for is a practice that helps me go to bed with a peaceful feeling and a full heart. It does the same for my kids. Especially on a day when we’ve had difficulties or the kids have faced some kind of challenge, I find that talking about all the incredible people we have in our lives, and the love that we’re surrounded by, helps my children go to sleep feeling safe and loved.
Do you have any night-time rituals that have helped make for smoother bedtimes in your house? I’d love to hear them!
If it's you who has trouble falling asleep (not the kids), you might like this post about relaxation and meditation for sleep. Or if going to sleep is easy, but getting up in the morning is the hard part, check out these yoga tips to change the way you start your day.