Let’s be honest. I used to hate the nighttime routine. When we moved from our home to an apartment, it was unfamiliar and hard for Little Roper to go to sleep. For days and then weeks and then months, Max and I would take turns laying on the floor next to his toddler bed, waiting for him to finally settle down and fall asleep. There are still nights when I wish Little Roper would go to bed sooner/easier/faster…you get the gist. But I realized that I needed to change my attitude.
Those videos of how parents try to get away from their sleeping child without waking them, that was us. The floor creaked right by the door, making it near impossible to escape if he wasn’t dead asleep. I would be so ready for “me” time after a long day that I was frustrated when he wouldn’t go to sleep right away.
A few times I woke up an hour or two later, my arm asleep and trying to make it out and into my bed without stubbing my toe on every. single. thing. And then you have to be quiet about it or you’ll wake up the house!
We’re finally past the phase where he needed us every night to stay asleep but we’ve entered the I-had-a-bad-dream-I-need-to-sleep-in-mommy’s-bed phase. Let the feet in the face continue!
But I’ve realized that this time is one of the best to connect with him. Even though he’s three, he understands and perceives things so well that I feel like he’s growing up way too fast. And if I don’t work to connect with him now, it will be a lot harder later on. No, I’m not perfect at it, usually failing more times than not but little by little I’m working on it.
Leave the phone in another room
I struggle with this one. By bedtime I’ve got mommy brain like whoa. All I want to do is mindlessly flip through my social media or catch up on some reading. And if your kid is anything like mine, he usually has even more energy than normal right before he totally zonks out.
The temptation to just hang out and let “my presence” do all the work doesn’t help at all. I usually get frustrated and tell him to lie down about a hundred times.
Leaving my phone helps me to focus on him. I can tease and talk and play for a few minutes.
Sometimes it’s as simple as, “What was your favorite part of the day?” and then asking him why. Other times I ask him about his favorite food, favorite things to do, etc. because the answers always vary.
Obviously you want to ask questions that will go along with your child’s age but it’s amazing how much more he’s willing to talk the next time and the time after that when we start talking.
Ask what they want to do tomorrow, where they want to go. You might not be able to do everything they want but when you make an effort to do it in the few days after, they remember that you remembered. Little Roper loves a park nearby and calls it the “climber park”, so that is usually his place of choice.
Talk about their friends, their likes and dislikes. I don’t know about you but I love it when someone remembers something I’ve said–It makes me feel like I matter to them, even in a small way.
Sing a song, tell/read a story
Even if you have to tell the same story every night for two weeks, this is totally worth it. If you tell the story the same way, you can pause for him/her to answer, which makes my 3yo giggle and wiggle because he knew that part.
Read to your older kids. My mom did that for a while and we’d all lay on her bed and listen to the story. It’s little things like that that make a difference in your child’s life. Introduce them to your favorite books, the Harry Potter series or some of the other classics.
Stay five minutes longer than you normally do
I get it. There are about a million things to do after the kiddos are in bed but the Netflix and chocolate binge will survive a few extra minutes. It’s amazing how perceptive kids are and for those extra five minutes, cuddle them and let them know how much you love them.
I guess if you have a teenager, that might be a little awkward but do it any way! Kids may act like they are too cool for you or that you are annoying but in the months and years to come, they will be going through things they don’t know how to handle and giving them that safe space, that safe zone, will help them know that you’re there to listen and support.
These are simple ideas but the impact can be greater than you think, and not just on your kids!
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