I’m normally a stickler when it comes to routines in my home. I established them for my children from the time they were babies, so that’s been 14 years. I do allow some flexibility in our schedule, when appropriate. Children need routines because it helps their day flow easier and they know what to expect. It helps keep our family life a bit organized and prevent chaos. I also find that children perform better when they have predictability and consistency in their lives. In addition, it helps children feel more secure, and they learn self-care and how to be responsible. I can see how these skills are still present in my children as they’ve grown older. As for us parents, having order helps keep our sanity.
Some of the most important routines in our home are the bedtime routines. My goals for all four of my children are for them to go to bed calm and relaxed and to receive the appropriate amount of sleep each night, so they can wake up the next morning ready to conquer their busy day. I established a set time for them to go to bed based on the time they need to get up in the morning and on the daily amount of sleep that’s needed that’s needed for healthy development.
At one point, I found it difficult to establish a routine that worked for the whole family because of the varying ages. After trying different strategies, we have something that works for us. I think what helps us now is that the required amount of sleep needed for my three older children is the same, so they have the same bedtime. Also, because of their ages, they don’t need me to complete certain tasks that need to be done each night like packing their backpacks and laying their clothes out for school . My older children’s independence allows me to focus on Ayden, my four-year-old. Any individual attention that my older kids need is given prior to Ayden’s bedtime or right after he falls asleep. (I aim for prior, that way I can have some me time after he’s gone to sleep.)
What our bedtime routine looks like in our home
- Prepping for the night begins right after dinner! We have four kids and one full bathroom, so we must start early, usually around 6:45. It normally starts with Ayden getting his bath first since he needs to be in bed earlier than the older kids. Plus, his bath time is time for him to play, so we want to allow time for that.
- While Ayden is playing in the tub, being supervised and washed by one of his older siblings, another kid has kitchen duties, and another must tidy up the living and dining room. It’s such a big blessing for us to have older kids who can help. This allows time for me to focus on other priorities that need to be completed by the end of the night like getting ready for the next day and checking my personal emails.
- Once Ayden finishes with his bath, the next kid goes in and then another until all have had their shower or bath. Making sure the kids get washed the night before is an effective way for them to unwind at the end of the day. Also, it prevents chaos in the morning because, with one bathroom, there is no way a family of six can shower in the morning. Well, I guess we could if we got up an hour early. But we opt for the extra sleep.
- Amid baths and cleaning up, the older kids are responsible for getting their bookbags and clothes prepared for the next day. Doing this the night before also prevents problems in the morning that can cause them to be late for school.
- After Ayden is finished with his bath he usually has about 15-20 mins of free time to do what he likes, such as play with toys, color, watch a few minutes of his favorite TV show. I don’t suggest any screen time an hour before going to bed because it can be overstimulating and delay the time your child will go to sleep, depending on the child. But I’m going to be transparent with you: he has had screen time less than an hour before going to bed and still managed to fall asleep without a problem. For us, the transition to calmness before sleep is reading and it works out well.
- During his free time, Ayden enjoys a light snack and a cup of milk or water. He doesn’t need much because he’s had dinner about two hours earlier.
- After his snack and free time, it’s time to visit the potty, wash hands, brush teeth, wash face, cuddle on the bed and read books, turn lights off, say prayers, exchange kisses, and sometimes a song upon his request. On a good night, Ayden is asleep by 9, until 7 the next morning.
- The teens’ evening rituals include some of the same elements as Ayden’s and pretty much follows the same order of doing things, but on a more teenage level and with much more independence.
- I make it my business to check-in with the teenagers to make sure they are doing what they need to do. If I don’t, they’ll be downstairs watching TV or playing on their electronics, as if they can’t tell time! There are those occasions when homework is still being completed because, for some reason or another, it wasn’t done earlier.
- The older kids, too, like a snack and a drink before bedtime. While eating their snack, they’ll watch TV, read their book, play games, or do whatever interest them.
- And just like Ayden, when they are finished with their snacks and desired drinks, they proceed with the other tasks that they normally must complete before calling it a night.
Sounds like a painless process, right? Well, most of the time. There are times when our bedtime rituals don’t go so smoothly, and that could be for several reasons. When that’s the case, I (or sometimes Larry) must deal with the situation at hand. You can imagine a preschooler screaming, “I’m not sleepy!” asking for more water, requesting six books to be read and we must compromise with him, or simply because it was a chaotic evening. And can you imagine the teens thinking they’re old enough to stay up late, claiming they’re not sleepy, talking and giggling? Shucks! Sometimes the girls who share their bedroom are arguing over something silly! One time, Donte had the nerve to ask me why their dad and I weren’t going to bed? Boy, we’re grown. Despite having a routine, there are those occasional evenings that are just out of order.
Before you know it, the kids are asleep (or at least laying down) and there’s that sound of peace! Larry and I can now enjoy a cup of hot tea while we try to get a few things accomplished before calling it quits.