Relationship Connection: creating a child’s bedtime routine (OPINION)

Geoff Steurer is a licensed marriage and family therapist in private practice in St. George, UT. He specializes in working with couples in all stages of their relationships. The opinions stated in this article are solely his and not those of St. George News.


I am having a difficult time getting my kids into a good bedtime routine. It seems like there is a battle every night to get them to bed on time. Any suggestions?


Creating a good ending to the day for children and parents can be a rewarding experience.  When it doesn’t go well, it can feel frustrating and discouraging. Even though you struggle with setting a consistent bedtime, I think it’s great that you value the need for a set bedtime for your children. Here are a few thoughts that might help the transition to bedtime go more smoothly.

The key point about bedtime is that children have to learn how to calm down and fall asleep.  They do this best when they are provided with a clear and consistent structure that gives their bodies the time and conditions to relax.

It can be helpful to pay attention to how much sleep each child needs.  Some children need more sleep than others in order to function well.  You can experience fewer struggles at bedtime if you have a clear idea of what is best for each child’s body.  Some children may need to start heading to bed sooner or later depending on the needs of their body.

It’s hard for many children to stop what they’re doing and transition to bed.  Many times this can come as a surprise to children when their parents abruptly announce that it’s bedtime.  If you want your children in bed by 8:30pm, consider transitioning them toward bed an hour earlier.  This takes planning and discipline on the part of the parent.  The children will learn to adjust to the earlier start time, especially if it becomes consistent.

Recognize that setting up a transition time will take a serious time and energy commitment during a time of day when parental energy resources may be at their lowest point.  Eliminating distractions such as cell phones, TV, computers, and other interruptions can help set the stage for bedtime.  If your children’s schedules are keeping them up too late, you may have to consider the costs of having them overscheduled and adjust accordingly.

To set parents and children up for success, the transition time must be as firm as the actual bedtime.  This allows the children the time and space to slow their minds and bodies down.  The transition structure can include activities to settle down, such as:  taking a bath, brushing teeth, getting dressed in pajamas, reading books, singing, talking about the day, and snuggling.

The hardest part of setting up children for a successful bedtime routine is the parent’s willingness to give up their own busy schedule to spend the time necessary to put the structure in place and maintain it.

Children of all ages appreciate when parents slow down and spend time with them.  Many parents find that children look forward to bedtime if they know their parents will be available to listen, talk, and connect.  You’ll even feel more relaxed and satisfied as you give your family the gift of slowness and a soothing transition at the end of the day.


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