Bedtimes. That moment at the end of the day. When your brain is exhausted from answering so many questions, tidying up so many things, keeping watch over so many moments. When you absolutely crave and need some me-time, quiet-time or partner-time because you know you need to take care of yourself.
And it’s your child’s bedtime!
That precious time of day when their vulnerability softly opens, their worries spill out and their need for you becomes primal. It’s also when they are bouncing about and bouncing on you!
So how do we meet this daily ritual with grace when we feel so empty? Here are 2 things to consider…
What’s really going on for you at bedtimes?
We often move fuzzily into bedtime with an internal military mind to get the job done in an agreeable amount of time so we can embrace that brief horizon of quietude. Thoughts of that future moment accumulate.
Inside we start to feel the pressure, the need to move things along, the anxiety about the time and whether your child will get as much sleep as they need. Inside we are starting to feel stress…and maybe a sprinkling of resentment too that things aren’t moving as smoothly or swiftly as we’d like.
When we repeatedly notice those thoughts they start to lose their power. When we notice we can start to see what’s really happening. That time isn’t moving too slowly or too fast, it’s simply moving. That your child isn’t being too clingy, but simply asking you to be here, right now. Fully present.
Children live in the environment of our feelings. That means they feel our desire to leave when we are internally itching to leave the room. Have you noticed how it makes children ask even more of us?!
Although it feels like the longer road to success, it’s in committing internally to being present, that we meet our child’s needs and then our own.
Start bedtime at a time that allows for the amount of time it generally needs. You’ll know if it’s 15 minutes for your kids, or 30 or 60 minutes. And then be there, enjoy it, have that calm, confident peace in your heart at the time you want to leave knowing you’ve experienced the pleasure of true connection. It sounds easy to say of course. But bear in mind how resistance will only prolong bedtime and create a bad feeling.
Your calm confidence will be felt. Children love to feel that sort of authenticity and generally accept it and respect it in a magical way. When you say goodnight and get asked for that one last hug, notice the desire to tense or stiffen.
Remember that your good humour and relaxed manner is a most reassuring quality. Especially when we see bedtime as the time to feel safe and secure.
What’s going on for your child at bedtimes?
Most children are on-the-go balls of energy. They can be pretty non-stop, active ‘doers’ with unlimited imagination and a desire to play. But some children are happy to settle down, enjoy a book and drift off.
Which is yours?!
Although it’s not really a secret, the fact that most children need to be active until they fall exhausted into bed while others prefer to wind down quietly, seems to be overlooked in child sleep books!
It’s your observations and understanding of your child which will tell you which sort of child you have – the one that needs to sleep purely to recharge or the one that needs an hour to relax before sleep. And this characteristic is about uniqueness and is different to the forbidden hour of sleep!
The potential to reduce bedtime struggles by recognising these tendencies is massive! Imagine no longer trying to coerce your super-energetic child into wind-down (which only thwarts the essential last few drops of energy expenditure). Imagine feeling totally confident that reading for an hour was the perfect thing for your child.
Put all the cultural conditioning about what bedtimes should look like to one side for a moment – all the advice about bath, story and wind-down. And then watch what your child does at bedtime. How easy it is for them to lay down in bed? Maybe they prefer to listen to stories while hopping about or swinging on something? Trust what you see – it’s all communication.
So while bath, bed and stories works a dream for some, the high-energy bedtime child needs avenues to release that last bit of energy.
It might be rough and tumble or hoola-hooping or dancing! Make space for it and embrace it and make a call on when enough is enough as these kids will go on and on!
If you have one of each (I do!) then you’ll have to get creative on how to make that happen depending on your circumstances. It’s a challenge you’ll meet that shows love for their individuality.
If you’d like to learn more about night wakings and sleep then read our most-read article ever! You can also enrol on our Positive Discipline Course online which has a module specifically about sleep and bedtimes.