My son has always been an early riser and putting him to be later actually causes him to wake up earlier. As such, we are fairly intentional when it comes to bedtime, winding down early so we can give his ADHD brain enough chance to rest and recoup.
When my son is deeply engrossed in the day’s activities and finding it particularly hard to wind down, I think about ways I can help him (and myself) say goodbye to our day and hello to sleep. It’s not always easy when his brain is extended to the max and his sentences are moving a mile a minute but I’ve come to rely on a few techniques to get him through the transition into wind-down mode.
1. Keep evenings dim
Recently, at my parent’s house, my son developed a routine based on his natural circadian rhythms. No (or very dim) lights were turned on in the evenings and my parent’s and son would rely on natural lighting to help wind down. My overly skeptical self didn’t believe this would have much impact, let alone be sustainable as we crept further toward winter. To my surprise, I discovered happy, calm evenings filled with post-dinner candle-lit family reading sessions.
As the natural light fades, keep inside lights off or dim. Consider using a low, non-blue light lamp or lighting candles in the evenings. Turn off all electronic devices and avoid blue lights at least 30 minutes before bed.
I’ll admit, in the summer, it is often still light out when it’s time to wind down and this becomes harder to implement but we still try and turn of all electronics and blue light 30 minutes before bed when we can. We don’t, of course, always achieve this goal and that’s okay.
2. Cuddle and Read
After my son has brushed his teeth, gone to the bathroom and is dressed for bed, we cuddle and read, usually next to a dim light, just enough for me to see the words in our book. My rule for reading is, he must be laying still and start to relax his body. If he gets too rambunctious, I put the book away and tell him it’s time for sleep.
3. Review Our Day
After our reading, we run through our day to remind ourselves what we did. This helps us end one day’s journey and prepare for whatever journey we will have tomorrow. It also helps my son practice staying on task as I don’t allow him to get distracted by any of the day’s details. Depending on his energy, I sometimes ask him to rate his day with a thumbs up, thumbs down, or thumb somewhere in between those two. Finally, I ask if there is anything he would like like to leave with this day (ie, not repeat) or to take into tomorrow (the things he enjoyed).
4. Share One Kind Thing We Did
After reviewing our day, we take turns sharing one kind thing we did that day. Some days we also share one kind thing we saw the other person do, if that person didn’t mention it. Sometimes we share our acts of kindness over dinner, sometimes we share them right before bed. Either way, this helps my son (and myself) remember to find small ways of being kind as well as notice and be grateful for the small acts of kindness in others.
5. Share a Gratitude
We’ve started a practiced of taking a moment to name one thing we are grateful for in our day or life, one thing we are grateful for in terms of our learning, and one thing we are grateful for about ourselves. Sometime we do this quietly, other times we might share one of our gratitudes.
6. Set our intention for how we want to wake up
I give my son a moment to thinking about how he wants to say hello to his sleep and his morning. Since he has been a very early riser (5:30 – 6:30) most of his life, we are currently working on “sleeping in” and “letting our bodies rest fully.”
7. Lullabies and body relaxation
The last thing I do before he drifts off to sleep is sing a lullaby or two while gently patting his back. If his body is particularly energetic, I will sometimes rub my hand on his legs or arms reminding him (in a soft, quiet voice) that it’s time to relax and welcome sleep. I encourage him to relax his legs or arms or whatever part of his body is most rambunctious. He often drifts off to sleep during this phase but not always. The main point is to help him relax enough to find sleep, even if I leave the room before he reaches complete shut eye.
What challenges or struggles do you have around bedtime? How have you been able to help your child(ren) settle in for the night?
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