Do you have a morning ritual? Something you do every morning that brings you joy and also helps set the tone for the day? Maybe it’s coffee in a favorite mug, followed by meditation or a short series of yoga stretches.
Routines aren’t the same as rituals. Rituals tend to be more intentional and meaningful than routines and typically have a desired result. In short, rituals are things we do with a sense of purpose.
As important as rituals are for adults, they may be even more important for kids. Rituals are particularly effective at the end of the day, when we make the important transition from an active day to a restful night. And let’s be honest: the more relaxed and sleepy we can help our kids become, the more relaxed our own night will be. And they don’t need to be complicated. Here are some ideas for perfecting a nighttime ritual for your family.
- Make a plan
It’s helpful to reverse-engineer this step. What’s your ultimate goal? What time do you want your kids in bed? Is your goal to have them go to sleep without repeated requests for water or fear of “monsters?” The answers to those questions guide your entire approach.
- Stop screen time
Experts agree that the light emitted by screens is no bueno when we’re trying to slow our brains at the end of the day. And that’s not just for kids. *cough* don’t look at your phone in bed *cough* Try to end screen time a good hour or two before beginning the bedtime routine. The last thing you want at the end of a long day is a battle over electronic devices. For kids who really don’t like to give up their screens, decide in advance what the limits are and enforce them. Routines go a long way toward heading off trouble.
- Wash the day away
A warm bath is a tried and true part of a good wind-down. It signals that pajamas are coming soon. A body wash like Ivory Moisturizing Body Wash is gentle enough for everyone in the family, because it’s free from dyes, heavy perfumes, parabens and phthalates. Plus it’s designed for sensitive skin, so you can use it on everyone. After some fun time splashing around, begin to talk your child through the idea that she’s washing the cares of the day away. Focus on the soothing feel of the water and how it helps our bodies relax. With calming scents like lavender and chamomile, Ivory Moisturizing Body Wash can help turn bath time into mini-spa time.
- Teach relaxation
It’s easy to forget that turning off our thoughts at the end of the day and falling into a deep, relaxing sleep doesn’t always come naturally to everyone. Once your child is clean and ready to get under the covers, teach her how to relax through breathing exercises or short sleep meditations. Relax time doubles as extra cuddle time so make it count.
- Use a quiet voice
Lowering your voice and dimming the lights is a powerful pre-sleep combo. Darkness is nature’s sleeping pill and it signals the brain that it’s time to crank up the production of melatonin and settle in for the night. Hushed voices help underscore the “time to sleep” message.
- Say Good Night
A comforting phrase, repeated as the last thing each night, really helps kids feel ready to fall asleep. Maybe it’s “I love you the best.” Maybe it’s quietly saying good night to everything, a la Goodnight Moon. Whatever your special phrase, using it every night will help relax your child so they can feel safe drifting off.
- Stick to it
Part of why rituals and routines work is their predictability. The steps are the same, day in and day out. Our brains don’t have to do the hard work of figuring out what to do next. When you find a set of steps that work, repeat them each and every night. The predictability is part of the magic!
And one last thing: be flexible. Because you’ll probably have to add stuff. We know, it seems like a contradiction to the idea of sticking to it. But kids are constantly changing. Sometimes a sudden fear of monsters seemingly comes out of nowhere. So if you find yourself needing to mix up a recipe for Monster Zapper and adding a spritz to the nightly routine, it’s all good. Like all things parenting, finding the right balance of night time routine and flexibility is the key to a peaceful night for all.
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