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Parent Helpers

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Before Bedtime

Parents can help kids (and themselves) make the transition from dinnertime to bedtime with clear limits and easy activities that help everyone wind down from a busy day.

  1. Let your child know exactly when bedtime is--and what's expected of him.

    Whatever time you set, communicate it clearly to your child and offer reminders in stages and by using positive phrases. For example, "It's quarter to eight. You can play for five minutes, and then it will be time to brush your teeth and read a bedtime story."

  2. Notice what your child needs to wind down.

    Some kids need quiet activities, others actually need to blow off steam and run around before bed.

  3. Keep in mind that if you get home late from work, your child may want some special time with you before bedtime.

    Quiet activities like reading favorite books and coloring together may help some kids settle down for the night. Others may want to climb all over Dad or play hide and seek with Mom.

  4. Try speaking in a quieter voice.

    Speaking in a softer voice reinforces the need for your child to relax and get ready for sleep.

  5. Stop playing when you said you would.

    When it's almost time to stop playing, give a five-minute warning. Giving clear messages to your child is very important.

  6. Chat about today's events and tomorrow's plans.

    Bedtime is an opportunity to process thoughts and feelings with your kids. Stories about emotions and events draw kids out because they can talk about how the characters feel.

  7. Create a bedtime ritual.

    These rituals can take many forms, but they should be brief, enjoyable, and predictable. You may want to draw on your own memories and cultural background, perhaps using a favorite story or lullaby. Children's own preferences matter too. Kids often love putting dolls and favorite characters to bed, or hearing a favorite story read to them (again and again)!

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