Toddlers to teens: tips for successful bedtimes
This is part of a series on getting kids to bed at night and keeping them in their rooms. To read the first part of the article, please click here. Maureen is a stay at home mom and here are her best bedtime tips from years of experience!
I have a feeling I’m the one with older kids here–so let me say from the start: it really DOES get easier! Our years of bedtime experiences, including tending to a child with special needs, have left us feeling grateful that things are going smoothly now that they’re older (and healthier).
What is the age range of your children?
17, 15, and 12
How long does it take to put your kids to bed at night?
Depends on the homework load and the general level of exhaustion (harder to get them to bed when they’re overtired). We’re really trying to get our teens in bed at a reasonable hour, as research indicates that 9-10 hours of sleep are optimal for teens.
What does your bedtime routine consist of/look like on a regular night?
We try to pray together. Our 12-year-old (who has Down syndrome) needs a slightly different routine (i.e. very structured), and he usually goes to bed at 9 on school nights. It takes about 15 minutes to get him ready (potty, teeth brushing, pj’s, etc.)
What does it look like if you get home late?
We generally stick to the same routine.
Do you have children that share a room? Does that work for your family?
Our children each have their own bedroom (they are living my childhood fantasy, as I’m one of 7 and always shared a bedroom with a sister). I certainly don’t think kids need their own bedroom, and I’m grateful for the years that our girls shared a room in our former home. But as teenagers, they have valued their own space (and I value it for them).
What excuses do your children use to stay up later or to get out of bed?
At this age, our problem isn’t keeping them in bed, it’s getting them OUT of bed in the morning! But if the girls tend to stay up too late, it’s generally because they’re on SnapChat or some other online site (though we don’t do Facebook).
How do you respond if your child gets up after you have put them to bed?
We try to remain calm and patient, as expressing frustration simply gets them more agitated and keeps them up longer. With our son, one of us goes back into his room with him, prays with him, and sings him a song.
What do you do if one of your children wakes up in the middle of the night and would like to sleep in your room or bed?
We have never allowed our children to sleep in our room or our bed. It’s a boundary we set when our kids were first born. We respect that others see this differently. However, since we set that boundary years ago, the kids never even ask to sleep in our room or in our bed.
Have you had concerns that seemed out of your child’s control (like nightmares, wetting the bed at an older age, working themselves up to the point of throwing up)? How did you handle these?
Given our son’s special needs, he presents many concerns that have required lots of trial and error. At age 12, he still wears Pull-Ups, wakes up in the middle of the night about 50% of the time, and can occasional soak the bed. In addition, when he is sick (particularly stomach virus), he doesn’t know how to get himself to the bathroom, so he requires lots of attention in the middle of the night. How do we handle all of this? With lots of prayer!
If my kids are not currently used to going to bed when they are asked and get up frequently, or if they are used to me rocking them or laying with them to go to sleep, what would be your best advice?
One of the ways we managed to get our son out of the habit of having us stay in the room with him is to leave the room while he’s drowsy (but not asleep) and say, “I’m going to brush my teeth and then I’ll come back to check on you.” Nine times out of ten, he’s sound asleep when I return.
What if my child is scared to sleep in their own room at night?
One of our daughters has struggled with this. We try to talk her through the fear, and we pray with her. We invite her to ask her guardian angel to watch over her, and we assure her that Jesus is with her.
What do you do when your kids are sick?
Because they each have their own room, we have them stay in their room and tend to them there. Because I’m not currently working outside the home (and can grab a nap the next day while they’re at school) I do most of the “night watch.”
What age do you think is best to transition kids from a crib to toddler bed?
It differed for each of our children. Our eldest moved when she was about 2 (because her little sister was born and we needed the crib for the baby), and our middle daughter moved at about the same age, because that seemed to work for her elder sister. Our son stayed in longer due to his special needs. Short answer: it depends on the child.
Of course, our situation may be different in that our kids rarely battled to stay up past bedtime (maybe we managed to tucker them out?). In any case, hang in there, have confidence, and don’t forget to pray! For “He pours gifts on his beloved while they slumber” (Ps. 127:2).
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Related: How we easily transition our babies from co-sleeping to crib –>