Tender moments of cuddling, talking or reading help your kids (and you) get a better night's rest.
The day is coming to a close. It's time to unwind and ease into the night. After a busy day, "it's about being rather than doing," says family psychologist Dr. Patti Zomber. Whether you read with your children, share a snack, or just spend time talking and listening, your bedtime rituals should be comforting times that the kids look forward to each night. Done right, the nightly routine can enhance their rest and draw you closer as a family.
Ages 2 to 5
For a young child, being alone in your room can be scary. Nightmares are not unusual. "At this age, kids are in the process of emotionally separating from parents and achieving mastery of many things, including darkness," says Dr. Zomber. Bedtime is a chance to reassure your kids that they are OK on their own in this special spot. Read a pleasant book that has a comforting message or make up a story with your child that has an empowering theme.
Ages 6 to 8
After the lights are out, you may find kids particularly willing to open up about issues that are bothering them. Encourage conversation that can provide you an insight on how your child is feeling. Start with, "Tell me about your day." Conversation or prayer can be a way of letting go of what happened today and preparing for a fresh start tomorrow.
Ages 9 to 12
As they teeter between childhood and teenage years, kids need flexibility in their bedtime routines. One night, you might find older children snuggling up to listen to a story that you're reading to a younger sibling. Another night, they may want to be alone in their room, says Zomber. Follow the child's lead. Be ready to give one-on-one attention, but also respect their need to experiment with different ways to relax in their own space.