FAO parents of school age children: how do you get them to sleep well and be rested for another busy day of playing, learning and chasing each other around the playground? I don’t know about you, but I find that the end of the school days produces a child that looks so tired I may as well turn up with a sleeping bag under my arm- yet get home and start to prepare for bedtime and all manner of energy re-appears! What is that all about? How do we get the balance right so that older children are able to unwind and go to sleep at a decent hour? School can be exhausting and children are expected to be on the go all day long, so it’s our job to make sure they can cope with that. But how? Hopefully these tips will help:
- Have a good routine. Chances are, you had your little one in a good routine as an infant and hopefully you stuck to this as they grew older. If not, don’t panic! There is still time to get a good routine going, and one that the whole family can work around. Routines are important as most children need to know what is expected of them and when; even older children need a little structure in their lives at home, as they expect at school.
- Allow plenty of time for wind down. According to Fi, author of The Baby Bedtime Book- Say goodnight to sleepless nights, (buy the book here) this is vital to aid restless sleep for kids. Her advice is to turn off the television and all other screens, and grab a book instead.
- Don’t skip the bedtime story. Older children that are in a good routine can still benefit from being read to at bedtime. The reading material changes, but the fact that a bedtime story allows time to relax before sleep still remains. No child is too old to listen to a good story- and this can be a wonderful quiet ten minutes for you both at the end of a busy day. Fi says that lots of older children still respond well to the same routine as younger children, so if you have little ones too this can work well for the whole family.
- Set a decent bedtime- and stick to it! Older children still need plenty of sleep to be able to function well at school the next day so agree a bedtime and make sure it is adhered to. This can be relaxed a little at weekends if you like, but be consistent during the week.
- Talk. Some children can find little things worrying and this can make sleep difficult once they are in bed. Spend time each evening to talk to your child and encourage them to share their concerns with you. Hopefully you can reassure them and help them to relax a little more. If it helps, get your child to write down their concerns in a notebook- often seeing a problem written down can help it to make sense a little more.
- Give them a break! As children get older, it can become more difficult to convince them that bedtime is important! But at school they are expected to be alert and learning the whole time, so a decent night’s sleep is essential. When they get home, give them chance to unwind from the day and to take a break from focused activities such as homework. A run at the park or around the garden can release unspent energy and help to clear the mind too.
What are your top tips for helping school kids to relax and sleep well?