Bedtime Routines Aren't Just for Babies
by Tricia Goyer
When our children were babies, we were often given the following advice, “Make sure they have a good bedtime routine — it'll make all the difference.” As kids grow, moving from toddler to school age, there is a tendency to let bedtime routines slack. By the time kids are in junior high, bedtime can be an “everyone for himself or herself” type of deal. But does it have to be? A bedtime routine will not only help older kids stay on a healthy schedule, but it's also a building block for family togetherness.
So how do you create a good routine?
Attention. I know it's been a long hard day, but don't let television or Facebook consume your attention. Pick a set time to gather the family around without technology being present.
Invitation. An announcement of “bed time” can bring a lot of complains and whines. “Just five more minutes, please ...” Instead of demanding that your kids stop what they're doing, invite them to get ready for family time. Choose a reasonable bed time that will give everyone enough time to settle in, but not too early that they feel they're being cheated out of their free time. Let your children know you're looking forward to hearing about their day and spending moments together.
Relaxation. Morning routines are often hectic; consider having shower time at night. The warm water can help kids relax and a soothing shower can also wash away the cares of the day. Getting pajamas on and brushing teeth can be a part of this routine, which leads to great lifetime habits. (And don't forget a drink of water and using the toilet!)
Communication. Once everyone is clean, invite kids to communicate something meaningful about their day. Be sure to share something about yours too. Ask questions like, “How was that test?” or “Did you make a wise choice today?” It's amazing what kids will open up and talk about. If your children are older, encourage them to write their highlights in a journal. It will be a special keepsake they'll hold onto.
Narration. Join together in a nightly reading. For our family, this included a few Scripture verses, followed by a chapter out of a Christian novel, such as The Chronicles of Narnia. The Word of God instructs and comforts and a good book helps to transition from the busyness of the day to dream land. And it's amazing how many books you can read through by reading just one chapter a night!
Supplication. For years we led our children in a one-sentence prayer. We started with the youngest and each child took turns praying. Mom and Dad closed out the prayer time (and used a few more sentences than one). As the children grew older, we invited our kids not only to ask God to watch over them, but also to keep them as they sleep, etc. We also encouraged our kids to thank God and to praise him for who he is. Don't let the prayers become the same words, “Thank you for my mommy, my daddy ...” Look out the window at the stars and express to God the wonder of his universe. Or keep a map nearby and pray for a different country every night.
Affection. Some kids like hugs and kisses. Others appreciate it when a parent sits on the edge of their bed and rubs their back. Just because kids are getting older doesn't mean they've outgrown affection. In fact, keeping this closeness helps them ease into the teen years knowing their parents do still care. Feel free to choose from these ideas or create your own. Share these ideas with your kids and ask them to help you create the routine. Also ask if they have any additional ideas. They'll feel like they're part of the process, and you'll have to do less convincing. Remember, it's never too late to establish a bedtime routine and reap the rewards!
Tricia Goyer is the mother of one married son, two teens and a baby. More at triciagoyer.com