We often work with parents whereby bedtime is a solo process, whether that’s because dad (or mum) works late/away during the week or perhaps a single parent and therefore you need to juggle bedtime for the children by themselves. Fay is one of these mums; her husband works away Monday-Friday leaving her with a 4 year old and a 20 month old to get settled into bed after a busy day of activities, so she understands how tricky this can be at times! Jenna’s husband often works away or late too, so she understands that getting three young children to bed, solo, can be a juggle!
No matter what the reason is for being a solo parent at bedtime, it can feel quite overwhelming. However, there are ways in which this process can be made easier, so we thought we would share some of these with you in today’s blog:
Routine: Have a bedtime routine that you try to stick to every evening (here’s a link to our blog on creating this routine). Once your youngest is 8 weeks old, sometimes earlier, they too can be involved in this (before this point they are likely to need feeds during the evening period). Keep the routine relatively short, perhaps some quiet play all together downstairs followed by 20-30 minutes upstairs for bath etc.
Sleep rules/rewards: For the older child/ren, over 2 ½, it is a good idea to set out some ‘sleepy rules’. Things like brushing teeth, putting pyjamas on and lying quietly in bed with their eyes closed; pictures are especially useful for younger children. You could also introduce a reward chart to encourage them to follow their ‘rules’. Toddlers and pre-schoolers LOVE predictability and boundaries, and this gives them that – as well as giving them some ownership over the situation.
Give yourself time: This is key. Make sure you allow enough time to get everyone into bed at the right time! To start with, allow extra time to get into the swing of the solo bedtime routine. Once you get into the swing of it you will become more efficient and no doubt make your own little tweaks to save time.
Multi-task: If you can, try doing as much of the routine together as you can. If your toddler wants to help bath their little baby brother or sister, get them into the tub together and kill two birds with one stone! If your older child is past bathing with their little brother or sister, this could be a point where they can play quietly in their room whilst you bath the little one, and then they could bath/shower afterwards. If they do bath together consider a reward for following the routine for the older child, like popping on their pjs whilst you read/feed the younger child. Your older child(ren) may not need a wash every night if they are a little older and don’t need the ‘cue’ as much for bedtime so they can dress for bed whilst you pop the younger one(s) to bed. Similarly, if they like to read books together – encourage this
Prioritise: This is super important. Depending on how the day has gone and who is the most tired (or at risk of becoming overtired), will dictate who needs to go to bed first. If this is your youngest, get your older child/ren to either sit quietly with you whilst you settle the little one, or encourage them to play quietly in their bedroom for a few minutes. If your older child needs to go down first (for instance if they have recently dropped their daytime nap and need an earlier bedtime) pop your little one down somewhere safe and secure (perhaps a bouncy chair or the baby gym within sight) whilst you settle the older one into bed.
These tips will work for lots of families but if your children do not have great sleep skills and are not able to settle without help, it may be a little trickier. If you’re struggling with bedtime battles with one or more of your children, please do get in touch – we would love to help make bedtime an enjoyable experience for everyone.