Hi there, it's Finley 👋🏼 and Happy Friday.
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Make It ... Special
It has been a longtime since I've been involved in the daily bedtime routine.
Our kids are older now, but that doesn't mean it's not a special time at our house still.
Back in the day though, I remember it being both the best of times and the worst of times.
Most evenings it was a team effort in my house with my wife. It was a lot of divide and conquer.
The trouble with bedtime honestly, is that it occurs every 24 hours.
Bedtime is relentless. No different than a full court press, it keeps coming at you every...single...day.
If you do the math from age 2 to 10, you could potentially spend 30-50k hours around the bedtime routine of your kids. That's a lot of time.
We had three different kids who all approached bedtime very differently to make matters more complicated.
Our oldest daughter got tired the earliest (like her momma) but also hated to be left alone.
Our middle son wanted to keep playing and wasn't tired yet (like his dad).
Our youngest daughter was a blend of the two but saw bedtime as a way to finally get some personal attention from us.
So how did we think about bedtime to make it more manageable?
We tried to make it the last sprint of our day as mom and dad.
It is not lost on me that sprinting the last 100 yards of a mile long race is tough, sometimes darn near impossible.
But in the same way that great runners have a strong kick at the end, can you plan to leave something in the tank to make bedtime special most nights?
I know we all want to get back to our shows, adult conversations, chores or finally get some peace and quiet.
Some nights I'd look at my wife and let her know I had nothing left to give. Sometimes she'd give me that same look too and we could tag out.
Most days, though, we tried to make bedtime something our kids could look forward to instead of it becoming a household fight.
Here is a bedtime blueprint of sorts...
Make it predictable
Why it works:
- A regular routine helps relieve anxiety and mental stress for our kids.
- Night time habits remove extra decision making for parents.
- As they get older they can begin to take more ownership of their own bedtime needs.
Kids thrive on predicability and structure because it introduces safety and security. Going to sleep is difficult when kids don't have either.
Make it kid-speed
As parents, we want bedtime on our terms because we can see the finish line for the day. Many kids will drag out bedtime into an endless game of "but I need one more snack or drink or book or hug."
What they are communicating is that they aren't ready for you to leave and their day to be over.
Instead of thinking about bedtime through the lens of a parent, what if you thought about it from your son or daughter's perspective?
We know that kids have a masters degree in manipulation when it comes to bedtime.
But, as often as possible, adjust bedtime to the personality and speed of your children, even if it's different from your own.
Quick note: Different kids have different speeds. This add an extra layer of challenge, I know.
Make it meaningful
Give them validation and space to be the age and personality that they are.
Avoid checking a box even though that's what it feels like to you.
Instead use bedtime as an opportunity to meet a specific need.
If they need to talk, then listen. If they need be entertained, tell a story.
If they need you to talk through the past few days or give them a look ahead at what's next, do it.
This gets harder the more kids you have in your family and requires more time, but it is time well spent.
Understanding what matters to each kid makes them feel known.
Make it hands on
Knowing that you are about to leave them in their bed for the night, giving them lots of physical connection is special.
This carries on well past the years of little kids. We still hug and kiss our teenagers a lot of nights still to this day.
- Play with hair
- Scratch backs
- Sit in laps
- Tickle feet
- Rub shoulders
- Kiss foreheads
- Give long hugs
Extra physical affection at bedtime makes it more special.
Why talk about bedtime?
What you are doing is keeping each individual connected to the whole.
Most nights right now, my daughter who is away to college texts our family "GN Fam."
When my youngest daughter is ready to sleep, she comes out of her room and yells "GOODNIGHT" and then shuts the door.
Make bedtime special when they are little as often as you can. Know that perfect is impossible and some is more than none.
Someday, when they are much older, they will bring you a lot of joy because they still want to know they matter to you at bedtime.
Three School Year Truths
From the team at Parent Cue
Part of Parenthood is having tough but necessary conversations with our kids. Here are three necessary ones to have as they have entered school:
- Families may have surprises for each other, but they don't keep secrets from each other. (Teach your kids that safe adults don't ask kids to keep secrets. If they feel unsafe, tell a trustworthy adult.)
- It's brave to do something, but it's also brave to make the choice not to. (Boundaries are a beautiful thing, and it says a lot about someone when they know when to say no.)
- You don't have to believe every thought you have. (Sometimes, what we think is true. Other times, it's not. Remind your kids that every thought isn't meant to be believed.)