Following the same pattern every night trains both body and brain to prepare for sleep and creates a feeling of security and safety for children. Every family can develop their own rituals but one possible pattern might look like this. (You're getting a glimpse into a classic Christian family here. )
- Start the ritual 1 hour before the time you want a child to be asleep. This is the time for baths and tooth brushing. (Remember to give lots of choices!) (Parents using this model would need to set their own tasks aside, turn off the TV, game stations, telephones, and texting, and be present and in the moment with their child.)
- If older children have a later bed time then younger children, this helps you have time with each child.
- After bath time, comes story time (younger children) or talk time if a child is older and now reads by themselves for awhile before sleep.
- Spend a few moments discussing something good that happened that day in the child's life. (One family learned the value of this during a tough year after a stressful move to a place that was a bad fit for the whole family. There anxious little boy could not think of any good things that happened during a day as he picked up the negative vibes of the adults in his life. So the parents began focusing on the good things in each day and all they had to be grateful for.)
- End the day in prayer and never let the sun set on your anger. For our family this prayer was often a memorized one passed on for 3 generations: Jesus Savior wash away/ All that has been wrong today./Help me everyday to be/Good and gentle more like thee. No grudges. All "sorrys" said before going to sleep. Forgiveness granted and received. Setting this pattern leads to peaceful sleep and great relationships.
- Light's out and in bed is the rule. Some children may need music or have a "15 minutes of reading time ritual" but at some point it must be quiet and dark. They don't have to go to sleep. It's impossible to enforce that. If the "I can't sleep" complaint comes up, try saying, "That's okay, just lie quietly with your eyes closed and think about happy things. Your body is still getting rest. You don't have to sleep if you don't want to."