In the next couple of posts, I will be sharing some routines that we started as a family, which helped us maintain order and sort of put our family on auto pilot. These routines helped us during busy school weeks, or when we had to be out of town with the children or just on a regular basis to keep things in order.
With twins as our first children, having disorganized routines, for my husband and I, didn’t help us. Everyone got exhausted.
Routines were important for us as they helped us stay organized and helped us coordinate our growing family. Routines helped us stay stable, literally. I remember all those days, coming home from a very busy day at work and being so thankful that we had a routine. Parenting twins wasn’t a piece of cake. Having a routine helped us. (I can’t say this enough) We knew what each member of the family had to be doing at each point in time.
Let me share one area routines helped:
Sleep routines helped us make sure our children slept when they were meant to and helped us make sure meltdowns (from exhaustion) rarely happened. Most parents don’t realise that having an exhausted baby isn’t good for anyone. We realised this early – having an over-excited or over-exhausted baby are never a good thing. Not for the parent, not for the child.
So, how did we set up sleep routines?
We made plans for when our children were to sleep. We also made plans for when they were to wake up. Yes, you heard me right.
Plan when your child will wake up.
The waking up part is so important but many don’t realize it. (During holidays we are flexible with sleeping and waking times but they know it is an exception)
I was at a sit out the other day and as the night got darker, a friend mentioned to me how her toddler daughter was going to stay awake and wait for her till she got home from our sit out. It was quite late so I was concerned about this and enquired further about her sleep routine.
“Oh, she hardly sleeps before 12 am. Sometimes by 11pm but rarely…”, she mentioned with a sense of helplessness and foreboding.
I was perplexed, “why?”
Eventually, I found out that her day minder usually left her to have her afternoon nap till 6pm and that was it, she never was able to sleep till around midnight. (I mean who would wake up by 6pm and want to sleep so soon after?) At the end of that routine was a sleepy mum who got home from work and stayed awake to mind the baby, a sleepy daddy who couldn’t sleep because mother and daughter were up and about and a very excited baby wondering why mummy was so sleepy at 2am when it was time to play!
Here are some things you can do:
- Start a sleep routine in your house: You can do something like this – With my twins, it was breakfast, play, nap. In between there were many other activities and then another nap after lunch time. This nap had to end before 4pm to ensure that baby was tired by the time I was tired. A night bath around 7pm and a warm meal had my child ready to settle in for the night around 8pm. (This timing got earlier as baby grew older)
- Explain to your child the importance of sleep: I have had this routine for years, but at 8 my twin son still asks, “why do we have to nap in the afternoon?” We must have answered this question every other day we send them to nap in the afternoon. It doesn’t appear we are going to stop getting asked that question any time soon. And then comes, “why do we have to sleep so early while daddy and mummy can stay up a little longer?” We try not to get tired of explaining how their bodies need to rest and recover from all the play to them and how their brains need sleep too. As they grow, know when you need to transition from, “because mummy says so” to a full blown explanation 🙂
- Make your child’s sleep zone a sleep zone: Not a TV Zone. Not a game Zone. Let them associate their sleep area with sleep so when they get there they know it’s time to sleep and nothing else.
- Share your sleep routine with those who mind your child in your absence: Maybe grandma, or a child minder, or at daycare, or a nanny. You don’t want to build a routine to have it shaken up by someone who thinks they want to have a little extra play time with your child. If your child is spending the day at grandma’s house, share with grandma when he is to sleep (and when he is to wake up too). Set reminders on your phone. When he needs to wake up, call and be sure he’s been woken up. Don’t leave things to chance as when the nanny goes home, you will be the one awake with a very excited, wide-eyed baby delighted to be singing A-B-C-D-E-F-G with mummy at 2am! Or a child playing with Lego pieces by 3am!
- Be consistent: Remember the secret to building a routine is by being consistent. Follow your routine consistently. If you’ve chosen nap time to be 2pm daily, be consistent. Trust me, a time will come when by 2pm, they would naturally start yawning. And by 7pm they would start rubbing their eyes. Choose a routine and stick with it.
- Send them to bed at bed time: Teach your child to self soothe. They don’t always have to stay awake till sleep comes. I remember my twin daughter singing to herself in bed at night after we had sent them to sleep at their bed time. She wasn’t sleepy, but she knew getting up from the bed wasn’t an option so she stayed in bed and sang herself to sleep.
It’s never too late to start a sleep routine for your child. Believe me, it may take just a week of questions and squirming and “can I have water” a dozen times, or “why did the first man who went to space go there?” and all those other philosophical questions that come ONLY at bed time before they sleep. But, soon enough when they realize the routines are here to stay, and no one is about to budge, they will stick to them.
Teach the children… so it will not be necessary to teach the adults. – Abraham Lincoln