While most children try and fight sleep tooth and nail, the fact of the matter is that school-aged children (especially the younger ones) need between 10-12 hours of sleep each night in order to function properly. Not getting enough quality sleep can lead to behavioral problems and can severely impact attention and memory, which are very important in school. Through developing (and maintaining) an after-dinner wind-down and bedtime routine, both you and your student will experience reduced amounts of stress and frustration.
Step away from the chocolate. Make sure your child does not have any caffeine during the afternoon or evening hours. Coffee, soda, and tea are the obvious caffeine culprits, but don’t forget about the sneaky chocolate. While the amount of caffeine found in chocolate is pretty miniscule and likely will not affect most adults, it can wreak havoc on a little body and his sleep habits.
Power down the electronics at least an hour before bedtime. Perhaps your family watches television together after dinner. That’s a great way to spend some time as a family, but be sure to cut it off an hour or two before bed. Maybe your kid is more of a computer person and spends his time in front of that screen instead of the television. Same rules should apply, as these stimulating activities can cause severe sleep problems.
Have some down time. This time can be spent reading, playing a game with the family (not a rowdy party game) crafting, coloring, or playing quietly with toys. It helps the mind transition from the busy day to a restful state, while also encouraging creative thought.
Wash up and get cozy. Once your favorite show is over or that oh-so-important level of his new game is played, send your child into a warm bubble bath to wind-down. Try adding a little lavender to his bubbly goodness and he’ll melt in relaxation. After he’s all clean and prune-y, it’s time to dry off and get into some comfortable pajamas.
Create a soothing sleep environment. Most people sleep best in a room that is cool, dark, and quiet. Keep radios and the television off (a nightlight is not too disruptive, if necessary). If other family members have late night plans, be sure they are being respectful of your sleeping angel and not waking him from his slumber.
Set bedtime routine limits. As a parent, chances are you have heard your child ask for ‘just one more’ of this or that. We all know that ‘just one more’ is a never-ending game. If he had his way, the cycle would never end. That’s why it is important to set clear limits about important steps such as the time the lights will go off and the number of bedtime stories that will be read (or the amount of time your reader can spend reading his latest library pick).
Enjoy some quiet time together. The time before your little one drifts off to dreamland is a great time to bond with your child and learn about his day. Ask questions that require more than a simple yes or no answer. Snuggle up for a story together and just bask in one another’s company for a few moments. Life is too short to take these times for granted. As we all know, kids grow up ridiculously fast and before you know it they’re grown and heading to college, getting married, or having children of their own.
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