Bedtime in any house with young children can be fraught with obstacles. Everybody is tired. It’s easy to lose patience. It’s easy for children to get wound up, hyperactive and bouncing off the walls.
Even with the best will in the world, it can turn to Armageddon.
Wouldn’t it be nice to find a way to help children go to bed, and to sleep, calmly?
A long time ago, I gave in to bedtime chaos, I decided to let it happen rather than fight it.
It happened to coincide with the birth of my third daughter, I’m sure there was part of it related to the emotional turmoil that they felt with the arrival of a new baby. And, with a new baby, my husband and I had no time for the shenanigans of three year old twins who thought bedtime meant party time.
It solved the problem of Armageddon, but it didn’t solve the problem of getting my girls to sleep much before we wanted to go to bed. Or giving me the feeling of having downtime in the evenings. Or stopping me feel rubbish about the lack of sleep they were getting and the translation of my irritation about it into crossness with my girls.
But poor bedtime routine had a knock on effect of them not wanting to get up in the morning, being tired and bad-tempered in the day, and became a vicious cycle with it causing a change to their body clocks. It didn’t help them with their learning either.
Calming it down
Eventually I knew that something had to be done, and finally we had some capacity to do whatever that was to improve the situation. We had to calm things down.
I can tell you things that definitely didn’t work. Lying on their bedroom floor until they went to sleep (seriously, we could be there for hours). Getting cross and shouting at them; not a recipe for anyone going to sleep happily.
So to hold the fort, as it were, after doing a bedtime story, we would leave them to it, occasionally checking on them or intervening if it got too raucous. Eventually they would go to sleep. We started using music or a story CD to give them something to listen to, which they quite liked but wasn’t a panacea, more like a holding pattern.
In hindsight we could have tried separating them, although we didn’t actually have the space to do that, and I am sure that could have caused issues too. Anyway, after much thought and trial and error, I found that relaxation and meditation exercises had a positive effect on calming them down. We would have tried them so much sooner, if I had thought that they would work.
The initial idea came from yoga nidra, or ‘yogic sleep’, which I practiced when I was pregnant with my youngest. When I wasn’t very comfortable in my body and sleep was a distant memory it was a very attractive proposition. I found the guided meditations which were based on a body scan incredibly relaxing.
Interestingly through my counselling journey, being able to link my body and my emotions was something I found very hard. As my girls have developed I came to realise how hard it can sometimes be for young children when they don’t have the right language to express their emotions, and it can translate into behavioural issues.
I wanted to close the gap between language, body awareness and emotions. I started investigating and using mindfulness techniques for children. Knowing how relaxing and positive relaxation could be I applied my knowledge to developing a script that might help with the chaos at bedtime.
I know when I am overwhelmed by a busy day, it can be hard to switch off, and for young children who are constantly learning, it must be doubly so. So I focused on calming the mind using the body scan idea. Over time I evolved the script to use affirmations that would support them feeling safe in their beds, as well as introducing a gratitude practice too.
And oh my goodness! They LOVE it. It has an immediate positive, relaxing effect on them, but they also just then go off to sleep without a fuss. It is quite honestly remarkable.
Yes it can feel daft reading a script using a ‘special’ voice, and yes it takes about 5 minutes, but since the effect is so magical, it really is worth it. My girls are 6 years old, and I think this would be good for any primary school age child. I would try this on my 3 year old as well if she started playing up, but I don’t think it is for children much younger than that.
So I thought I really had to share it properly here. For my first time ever, I have recorded it for you to listen to and share with your children. I would however recommend for the personal connection with your child that you read it yourself to your child. If you want a copy of the script, I’d be happy to share it with you via email. Feel free to listen to it yourself as you go to sleep too!