Some people feel that using a bedtime routine creates a dependency in a child that will keep him from falling asleep at night if anything in the routine is missing. My opinion is that no matter how simple, we all have bedtime routines. Humans are creatures of habit, and we all do certain things before going to bed. For some people it may be as simple as brushing teeth, putting on pajamas, and getting into bed, but it’s still a routine. Including more elements in a routine does not adversely affect a child in any way. On the contrary, enjoying your time together as a family and doing a few fun things before bed will have untold benefits. That time spent together builds your relationship with your spouse and children, an immeasurable treasure. Here are some of my thoughts about bedtime and our personal routine.
Bedtime is a great opportunity to be together as a family, and mothers and fathers should both participate in this daily event. Our personal bedtime routine is simple but consistent, which is the important thing. We haven’t quite gotten down to a specific time yet, so sometime between 8:30 and 9:30 we go into our son’s room together as a family and we sing a simple song like, “It’s bedtime, it’s bedtime, it’s time to go to bed,” or “It’s time to go to bed, oh my my; It’s time to go to bed, Oh my my.” You could also use a familiar song like “Row, row, row your boat” and just change the words to “Go, go, go to sleep, go to sleep tonight. I’ll be back when morning comes, I love you and goodnight,” just something relaxing and soft that signals the beginning of the routine.
Then one of us changes his diaper, singing the song all the while. After he has a clean diaper, we put on his pajamas. In the summer this is more difficult because it’s so hot that usually he just sleeps in a onesy. I think the important thing is to just change his clothes so he gets used to pajamas being a part of the routine.
Then we pray together as a family. I don’t know if he understands exactly what we are doing, but someday he will. Bedtime is a great time to reconnect with each other and with God. In these quiet times together, children will learn the family values and you will be able to teach them the things that are most important to you. Develop a tradition of praying or talking together or anything else you choose at the end of every day and start when your children are young so they can never remember a time when your family did not do these special things together. Use bedtime to establish a family culture and tradition that will bind you together through challenging as well as happy times.
After our prayer we sing another song, a lullaby. There are many traditional lullabies to choose from or you could pick just any favorite song. The song should be calming and relaxing and will preferably teach the child a good message and help him feel secure and loved. My husband and I both enjoy singing, so a song works well for us. If one or both of you are not comfortable singing, read a short story together.
After our song, I nurse him to sleep. I don’t want him to get so used to nursing himself to sleep that he can’t fall asleep otherwise, so we’re going to change that part of our routine soon. I’m not looking forward to that since every period of readjustment comes with a bit of struggle, but we will do it for the sake of healthy sleep habits.
So that’s what we do. As our children get older and move into different phases, our routine will need to be adjusted to fit the needs of our family. Be flexible but also firm in maintaining a special and enjoyable bedtime routine to conclude each day. Your children will appreciate the structure and family time that this routine gives them. Bedtime is a special opportunity to share love and connect with your children, so be sure to take advantage of this opportunity each night.