We all know that sleep is vital to our health. Moms know this. Dads know this. Grandparents know this. Somehow, our kids never got the message. Instead they think being healthy involves 35 cups of water (with ice) 10 sprays of monster spray, 20 snacks, 15 potty breaks and lots of feisty crying and begging. After all that, they need cuddles over and over and over again. While I love snuggling my children, you have to agree that the thought of a warm cup of coffee, a blanket and some tv that is not Caillou lingers in the back of my mind. The problem is, by the time I ping pong from room to room and they are all asleep, I am too fatigued to make that cup of coffee, or do anything more than getting in my PJs, maybe read a journal, and crawl into bed. A school-aged child needs

an average of 11 hours of sleep per night. Teenagers need 8-10 hours. Toddlers 10-13 hours(so jealous). 4-12 m need 12-16h. So, the dilemma is - how do we encourage bedtime, healthy behaviors and get our kids to bed (and maybe even drink a warm cup of coffee?)

Here are some tips:

1. the big, bad screen … the AAP recommends no more than 2 hours of screen time a day. This seems reasonable and we should be mindful of our kids media use (including tv, videogames, ipads and phones), but there are still some considerations within that recommendation. Screens should be turned off at least one hour before bed to allow our brains and body chemistry to adjust to it’s normal, night rhythm. So. my advice is to set a house rule and stick to it. Remember you purchased the tv, therefore, you are in charge of it.

2. create a bedtime routine … one your child enjoys. one your child looks forward to. one that provides him or her with security and quality time with you. It can be bath, pjs, teeth brushing, getting school  clothes ready, book bags ready, making lunch or reading. A special way to end the day is to dim the lights and snuggle while you discuss favorite parts of the day, funny parts of the day or difficult parts of the day. Kids will share so much if you give them uninterrupted time where they feel  loved and supported. This precious time with you will prove to make awesome memories for them and you will learn about
your child if you truly listen. It is about quality of time with them, not quantity.

3. got milk? … ever hear your grandma say to drink warm milk before bed? while milk is good for you (a one-cup serving provides 30 percent of our daily value for calcium, 25 percent for vitamin D, 24 percent of riboflavin (a B vitamin), 20 percent of phosphorus and 11 percent for potassium), it is not what’s in it that makes you sleepy.  It is likely the calming effect or the breakdown of the cookies you eat with it that helps induce sleep. But hey, I'm not giving up my warm milk anytime soon (or my cookie, chomp! chomp!) and if it calms your children, go ahead and keep giving it. Just remember to brush those teeth afterwards!

4. blame it on the bedtime chart…one of my favorites. Your kids decide with you what is on it (pictures for the littles). Your kids color it and decorate it. They choose where to hang it. Then, you say “what does your chart say to do next”….blame that chart! In a perfect world, our kids would quietly stop playing, listen carefully and follow our prompts for bedtime on the first request. My house certainly is not perfect. So i blame that chart! The best thing about this is the inattentive kiddos can stay on task and the little toddlers can build their self-esteem as they do things on their own.

Raising children is an art not a science.

Dr. S