For some parents, the night routine is the most important routine of all.
Everyone is tired, children from the busy day of playing and learning and parents from working, whether at a paying job or just keeping the house from falling down.
A routine will help settle things down, keep you from losing patience and give parents time to reconnect with each other.
Setting limits is as important as setting up your nighttime routine.
Setting limits on how much TV a child watches is one thing but we also need to set a limit on the type of show they are watching, especially late afternoon.
Too much stimulation at night?
Overstimulating small children can cause a struggle at bedtime. Where possible avoid shows with lots of activity in, this is usually cartoons where the characters are often hyperkinetic or fighting. This includes games on tablets and pads.
Also, actives where the children get hyped up, this often happens when fathers work long hours and come home to play with the children. Fathers will often roughhouse with the boys or tease and tickle their little princesses!
Depending on the age of your child your night routine can start as early as 4 pm.
Create a routine
To create your routine you need to know how much sleep everybody needs at night to be productive during the day. Remember children and adults with severe ADHD often sleep less than other people.
One of my children has severe ADHD and when she was little even with dark curtains up, she would be up by 4 am! The most we could expect was 6 hours if nothing disturbed her night.
How much sleep does the average person need?
I got this from the blog ‘The Sleep Council’.https://sleepcouncil.org.uk/
0-1 (infants) 14-15 hours’ sleep per day
1-3 yeas (toddlers) 12-14 hours’ sleep per day, this includes one or two naps during their daily routine
3-6 years (preschooler) 10-12 hours’ per day, this may include one nap, some children don’t need to nap at all by 6 years.
7-12 years (tween) 10-11 hours’ per day, with no nap.
13-18 years (teenager) 8-9 hours’ per day.
18+ years 7-9 hours’ sleep per day.
Deciding on bedtime
Deciding on when bedtime is and working backwards to create the rest of your night routine for the children is the easiest and then work forward from bedtime to create your night routine.
How to decide what time is bedtime?
First, what time do the children need to be up, given that the younger they are the longer their morning routine will take.
This means that if you need to leave the house by 7:15, the latest you need to wake your children in 6:15.
South African schools start earlier than most other countries at 7:45 and our working hours are also earlier with most jobs starting by 8:30.
Bedtime therefore in my home with only teenagers and adults is 9 pm and lights out at 10 pm, and sadly for me, my bedtime is later and my waking time is earlier!
Suggested bedtimes for infants would be 4 pm if they slept straight through but for most mom’s that is just a pipe dream. Hopefully, they are sleeping in 3-hour cycles.
Toddlers’ bedtimes would be around 6 pm for 12 hours sleep plus 2 hours during the day, it is suggested that the morning nap be around 2 hours long and the afternoon nap only an hour, bedtime could then be pushed to 7 pm to allow working parents some quality time with their little ones.
I am a fan of sleep training, depending on how it is done of course. Sleep training can be a traumatic experience for parents (and children if done wrong) but if you have more than one child or children on different night routines then it is a lifesaver.
A good bedtime for pre-schoolers is 6-7 pm, if they have had a nap during the day you may find that they are too awake to sleep before 8 pm.
With tweens, it is not really feasible to have bedtime before 8 pm as they usually have homework.
Teenagers are a little harder to work with and getting them to bed by 9 can be a challenge. Their smartphones interfere with sleep!
Adult children and adults supposedly should be asleep by 10 pm, the only one in my house who does this is my son and that is only because he needs to be at work by 6 am!
The best use of the time leading up to bedtime are baths and reading to/with your child as they are calming activities before sleep.
Now that you know when it is time to sleep, you can decide on things like bath times and supper times.
According to most nutrition specialists, the last time we have something to eat should be 2 hours before going to bed.
Obviously this does not apply to infants whose main source of nutrition is milk; please follow the advice of your paediatrician or infant feeding specialist.
To control the use of cell phones before bedtime and after, we installed something called ‘ScreenTime’ and this locks the phones and allows you to monitor how much time the children spend on their devices.
Once the children are in bed it is time for your routine to begin.
Supper time may be in two stages, one for children who need to eat by 5 or 6 pm and then 7 pm for others. Dinner time at my home is our family time.
With 2 teens, 2 young adult children and a husband who only gets home at 6:30/7 pm, I insist that we eat together almost every night at 7/7:30pm and that there are no electronic devices present at the table.
This is where my children get to know each other again.
With today’s life styles, most families often don’t have time to spend together, this is often because of the extramural activities and sometimes the age gaps, as well as work or university.
Once dinner is over, the shower/bath schedule begins, with 5 people showering at night, time limits and a schedule is needed, this is to avoid running out of hot water! I choose to bath in the mornings before everyone is awake and only wash at night.
This means not only do I have as much hot water as I want but also no one is awake to disturb me.
Once dinner is over and the dishwasher loaded and running, night owls may want to prepare school and work lunches now, to give them extra time to sleep in the morning.
You may want to use this time to tidy up any clutter, pay your bills and sort your mail. Maybe just relax with a book and some tea before bed.
My night routine is usually, watch one episode of a series, write my blog or record a show and then have a cup of tea and read a little. I try to be lights out by midnight!
While setting up times for a night routine and sticking to them would work in an ideal world, life happens and it isn’t always possible.
Remember a routine is supposed to help you stay calm and make life easier, be flexible when you need to be. http://kasheringyourlife.co.za/good-mornings-and-good-nights/