Stress-Free Parenting Part 4: Taking Control Of Bedtime

For many of you, this might make a lot of sense. For others, like my client Joana, bedtime is the most stressful time of the day for her and her family.

When I walked into Joana’s apt, she welcomed me with a big hug and said, “I hope that you can help me with putting my kids to sleep… last night I was screaming so loud both my kids and my next door neighbors must have thought I lost my mind…”

Joana has a daughter who is 6 and an older son who is 10. After talking to Johanna for 15 minutes, it was obvious that the stress she experienced at bedtime wasn’t just about her kids.

I knew that while she wasn’t looking for therapy, she needed some guidance and coaching not just with putting her kids to sleep.

I was honest with Johana and told her that since she asked for help with putting her kids to sleep, I would start with helping her in that area, but I also suggested we work on helping her deal with other stresses. 

As a first step I told Joana she needed to understand the following:

  1. She is 100% responsible for her emotions.
  2. She has the ability to control her thoughts. 

She, as many of my clients, looked at me like I was an alien, which I expected. But when I told her with confidence that thousands of my clients thought the same and changed their mind, she was open to the idea that maybe there is hope for her.

The following are the four tips that I gave her regarding reducing stress at bedtime. Since Joana was a pessimist by nature, I suggested  she recite to herself (and to me) that it is possible to have a less stressful bedtime routine.

When she first did it, she felt ridiculous and convinced me that it could never happen — but after reciting it three or four times she started laughing and I could see she was changing her mind. She also asked me if I was willing to come one night to observe her while she’s putting her kids to sleep and I agreed. I gave her the following as homework to practice before our following meeting and she promised to document her progress.

  1. Create a bedtime routine that kids will follow every night.
  2. No electronics after 7pm
  3. No sugar after 6:30 (for more about foods to avoid before bedtime, click here)
  4. Play slow music or sounds to create a relaxing environment. Some parents prefer books on tape, which is also a good alternative.

Joana worked on these four steps consistently and started making progress. Once she realized there were concrete things she could do about relieving stress surrounding bedtime, she stopped fearing it so much.

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