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Does bedtime at your house make your stress and anxiety shoot up into the stratosphere? Do you dread that time of day when tempers flare, children sob and scream and any thoughts of relaxing are simply out of the question? You are not alone. Bedtime can be one of the most stressful times of day for many parents. What to do?

First, establish a reasonable bedtime for each child and then stick to it. You will have to commit to this time, so pick something doable and appropriate for your situation. If you run out to the store at night on a semi-regular basis, make bedtime late enough to be able to be consistent. It may not be perfect, but make it doable and be sure you can consistently stick to this time. Consistency is absolutely necessary.

Second, collect all electronic devices from your children before bedtime and lock them in a closet. You don’t want your child texting or playing games in the middle of the night. This should be the first step to your bedtime routine, as it will most likely not be popular.

Third, establish a customized sequence of tasks for each child that goes from least enjoyable to most enjoyable. This will encourage your children to actually look forward to bedtime! Yes, this is absolutely possible. For example, a bedtime sequence might be:

  1. Brush teeth and put on pajamas.
  2. Lay out clothes for the next day.
  3. Put everything necessary for the next day by the “launch pad” (typically the door you use to go out in the morning).
  4. Watch 30 minutes of a favorite show or video, or snuggles and a bedtime story. Perhaps your child would like a “bedtime buddy”—a special stuffed animal that only comes out at bedtime.
  5. Time for bed and maybe a 2-5 minute calming head massage or foot rub.
  6. Lights out.

This is just an example. Customize this for your family. You know what your children procrastinate on and what they look forward to. Once you pick your bedtime and establish your bedtime routine, make sure you stick to it every night. If the routine is always the same it makes it much easier to follow. If you need to tweak it to make it work better, that’s fine, but then stick to the improved routine. You also might think about soft music you can play while your children are getting ready for bed. Music calms and cues children and also reinforces the routine you have established.

Do what you can to make sure the house is conducive to bedtime. For example, if your child’s room is too hot or too cold, put a fan in the room or an extra warm blanket. Sweet dreams!