A consistent, predictable, calming bedtime relaxation routine can make the difference of a good night’s sleep or not. Our brains and nervous systems thrive on predictability and routine in order to reach a state of calm. And, the more we experience a routine, over time our bodies and minds build the capacity for calm, automatically moving with ease into a state of calm at the start of the routine each night.
Your Child’s Relaxation Language
In creating a routine that is supportive and meaningful for your child, a good place to start is to notice what helps your child to relax. Begin to take note of your child’s reaction to soft music, a warm bath, a foot massage, or cuddling up with a stuffed animal or a favorite book. If your child is old enough, ask her what helps her feel calm before bed.
For my older daughter, Maiya, it was reading. As a parent, I sometimes felt a little resistance reading Goodnight Moon for the millionth time! However, it was so important to my daughters’ development that we read a consistent story, one that she loved. For her, this was her relaxation language, what worked for her to calm her mind and relax. Finding your child’s individual relaxation language is key–that’s the magic that will help her relax.
Create the Relaxation Space
Next, create the space for a peaceful sleep. Soft lighting, puffy pillows, a clutter-free simple space for bedtime breathing and preparation. Maybe it is a corner of her bedroom, next to her bed, or another relaxing space within your home. My daughters and I once put up some curtains like a tent in the corner of the room, added some pillows and fairy lights and then plopped down there every night for a summer to read, tell stories and sing songs before bed.
Parents–Use the Routine to Relax!
Bedtime routines happen when we are all tired out, often at the end of long days. Sometimes as parents, we need to gently share with our kids that we ourselves need to stretch, breathe, or take 5 minutes before starting the routine–totally fine to take 5 in order have the energy you want for bedtime with your child. We all do our best to get calm and to participate with our kids during the relaxation practice. Sometimes it’s easy to put our whole heart into it, and sometimes it’s not, just being with what is present is the best we can do at any given moment. Over time, the routine will flow and develop and settle into its own rhythm.
Bedtime Relaxation Routine:
Here are some tips and ideas for establishing a Bedtime Relaxation Routine.
- Consistent time: Start the routine at around the same time each night.
- Quiet Space Free of Distractions: Put away and silence the cell phones, tablets, TV, and other electronics before starting the routine. Out of sight out of mind!
- Stimulate the 5 senses for sleep: sight (soft lighting) smell (essential oils such as lavender, rose, jasmine, geranium, orange) taste (warm tea or milk with honey) hearing (soft music, nature sounds such as waves or wind in the trees, bedtime story) touch (foot massage, back rub, wrap your child’s feet with a warm or cool cloth depending on the temperature he prefers).
- Do some gentle stretching. One of my favorite books for bedtime stretching is Yawning Yoga: A Goodnight Book for a Good Night’s Sleep by Laurie Jordan. You can read more about these poses on this blog post from Gaiam
- Read an inspiring, sweet story. Choose a story that is relaxing in nature and not over-stimulating or action-packed.
- Listen to a guided relaxation: Either listen to a recording together or read a guided visualization to your child using a soft voice and a slow, steady calm pace. Please see the visualization script below as an example. Insight Timer app has a wonderful selection of pre-recorded meditations for children.
- Close with a hug.
Visualize floating on a cloud to drift off to sleep
Close your eyes and imagine that you are sinking into a soft fluffy white cloud. Breathing in you feel your arms getting heavy, (Pause). Breathing out you relax even more into the cloud, (Pause).
Breathing in your legs sink into further into the cloud. This cloud is fully supporting you and holding you and with each breath you take you feel yourself relaxing more and more, letting go of any worry thoughts, or any thoughts about your day, and relaxing into that soft, wispy cloud.
Lying there you can feel your body weightless, like you are floating on a cloud. All of you is relaxed and ready to slowly drift off to sleep, peacefully breathing and floating in the cloud.
You are loved. You are loved. You…are…loved…
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