Do you find it easy to fill your kids’ non-school hours and days with stimulating social, intellectual and recreational activities but challenging to get them to wind down at the end of a long day?
If so, you’re in good company. As many parents discover, children are experts at finding creative ways to resist going to bed, especially when something is troubling them or when they don’t want to be left alone.
How many of us have heard these pleas come out of our precious ones’ mouths at the end of a long and exhausting day?
I’m not (big yawn) tired! Can I stay up just a little longer?
I need to go to the bathroom one more time!
I can’t sleep without … (whatever toy isn’t in the bed with them at that moment!)
Will you read me just one more story?
Why can’t I stay up with you?
Sometimes our children want to stay up simply because they enjoy participating in family activities and they don’t want to miss out on any family fun. However, it’s also common for kids to experience separation anxiety at bedtime due to nightmares, fear of the dark, and other concerns they may have difficulty verbalizing. As parents, we need to be sensitive to our children’s unspoken needs. When we see patterns of bedtime avoidance emerging, we need to put on our detective hats and find out what’s going on so that we can help our kids alleviate their fears and get a good night’s rest!
From a spiritual perspective, one of the reasons that so many children have difficulty sleeping at night is that our spiritual adversary, Satan, preys on the young and vulnerable (1 Peter 5:8). Our enemy delights in creating circumstances that make our kids anxious, prone to nightmares, and afraid of the dark. As a matter of fact, fear is one of his favorite weapons!
For instance, when kids are exposed to scary stories, creepy television shows and violent video games throughout the day, it’s easy to see how children with vivid imaginations can translate ordinary sights and sounds into terrifying monsters and things that go bump in the middle of the night. However, Jesus tells us in Matthew 8:32:
Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.
As parents, God gives us the awesome privilege and responsibility of sharing spiritual truths with our kids each night as we tuck them into their cozy beds. Every evening, we can teach them that a good night’s rest is a gift from God. We can help our kids sleep peacefully through the night by assuring them that our Heavenly Father is watching over us.
We can comfort our kids by reassuring them that God loves us and protects us. They need to know that God is in control and He is the One who keeps us safe.
Over the years, I’ve had my share of restless nights. The following Scriptures have helped me allay my nighttime fears. I encourage you to teach and memorize these with your kids as they will help alleviate your children’s fears too!
I lie down and sleep; I wake again, because the Lord sustains me. – Psalm 3:5
In peace I will lie down and sleep, for You alone, Lord, make me dwell in safety. – Psalm 4:8
Getting the right amount of sleep is vital to our children’s mental and physical development. The younger our children are, the more sleep they need! The National Sleep Foundation recommends that toddlers get 11 to 14 hours of sleep each night. Preschooler’s need 11 to 13 hours of sleep each night and elementary-age children need 9 to 11 hours of shut-eye.
Creating a safe environment that helps children fall asleep and stay asleep is an invaluable gift we can impart to our kids – and creating a nurturing bedtime routine is an important part of that!
- Establish a consistent bedtime routine that begins a few hours before your child’s scheduled bedtime so that your child knows when it’s time to mentally and physically wind down.
- During “wind down” time, eliminate any activities that interfere with sleep (such as televisions, computers, video games, and smartphones that emit blue light and interfere with the body’s production of melatonin) and replace them with calming, soothing activities that are conducive to sleep (such as soft music and peaceful dialog).
- Create some evening rituals that your child will look forward to each night! For instance, let them pick out their favorite pair of pajamas and a beloved stuffed animal to snuggle with. Encourage them to pick a favorite bedtime story they’d like to hear.
- Make bath-time a fun and relaxing experience filled with favorite scents and scrubby toys.
- Pray with your kids and recite the “peaceful sleep” Scriptures (or whatever other precious Biblical truths your kids need to hear!)
One way to keep bedtime exciting is to regularly refresh their library with new stories so they always have new adventures to anticipate!
Let’s Get Ready For Bed – the new book by Grammy Award-winning artist Michael W Smith and Mike Nawrocki, the co-creator of VeggieTales – is the perfect story to share with kids as they prepare for bedtime!
This sweet and sleepy picture book is the second book in a series of bedtime books in the Nurturing Steps line – an infant and toddler series of children’s music and books, founded by Michael W. Smith, with a simple mission to enliven your child’s journey with hope and faith through music and storytelling.
The story Let’s Get Ready For Bed is designed to lull your little one to sleep with their favorite stuffed animal characters the Nighty Nights.
As an added bonus, Let’s Get Ready For Bed includes a link that allows readers to listen to Michael W. Smith singing the lullaby from the story!
Watch the Video for a look inside…
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Is nighttime a breeze or a struggle for you and your kids? What challenges do you face and how have you sought to deal with them? We’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments!