Time for Bed: Parents and Caregivers Share Tips for Helping Children Get More Rest
When (my grandchildren) don’t get enough sleep they’re really grouchy,” says Andrea Jones of Long Beach. “It’s hard to get them up in the morning and they don’t have a great day at school. When I pick up my grandson from (child care) at 6 pm, I tell him, ‘We’re going to have dinner, take a bath, do homework, and, if there’s time, you can watch TV until 8 pm.’”
While experts agree sleep is important for children, a 2004 study finds many children don’t get enough (see How much sleep do we need?). “Often when children act out, it’s actually because they’re overtired,” says Loretta Jones, executive director of Healthy African American Families.
Parents and caregivers talk about how they help their children get more sleep.
Develop good sleeping habits
When Turlock mother of four Deborah Grim puts her five-month-old baby to bed, she says, “We listen to lullabies. I put him in the crib and have him look at his mobile. You can see his eyes getting drowsy.”
“Put your child in the crib or bed while they’re awake,” rather than letting them fall asleep in the living room, advises Lisa Root, adult parenting coordinator of the Modesto Parent Resource Center. “Let them learn to fall asleep on their own, so they can fall asleep on their own in the middle of the night.”
Babies should be put to sleep on their backs on a firm surface with no crib bumper guards or pillows, says Root. “Babies don’t need a pillow until they’re old enough to ask for one.”
Develop a bedtime routine
Bedtime routines can be simple, says Nancy Lim Yee, program director at the Chinatown Child Development Center—something families can commit to on a nightly basis. After dinner, Yee’s children had quiet playtime building with blocks, coloring, or watching television. Then they had a bath, put on pajamas, and had a story read by mom or dad before bedtime at 8 pm. “As my children got older,” says Yee, “they got to help make decisions about the bedtime routine. We would say, ‘You can read a chapter or two or play a game with your sibling, but then it’s lights out.’”
“My son has been pretty easy to get to bed,” says mom Janell Pineda of Orland, “because we’ve had the same routine for so long. After dinner, he has a bath, we read stories, I turn off the light and say goodnight. Sometimes he gets up to go to the bathroom—he knows he can come give me a hug, but then he has to go right back to bed.”
“Bedtime is between 7:30 and 7:45,” says LA mother of two Lashun Willis. “They don’t fight me on it because it’s been that way forever.” Her daughter recently started waking up at night, wanting her sippy cup—Willis tells her, “A sippy cup is for lunch or dinner but not in the middle of the night.”
Getting ready for bed may also include making sure children have their “lovies,” a special stuffed animal, pillow, or blanket, says Loretta Jones. “If it helps them feel safe, let them have it. When you travel or go to a friend’s house in the evening, bring it so the child can fall asleep more easily,” she adds.
“There were days when things came up or when nothing worked,” recalls Yee, “but it’s important to be consistent. Some nights you will be too tired or things get too hectic to stick to the bedtime routine. But it’s important to say to your kids, ‘Tomorrow we’ll be back to normal.’”
Reprinted with the permission of the Action Alliance for Children.
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