In the lives of a busy parent, it often seems as if the entire day flies by without a moment to catch one's breath. Although we know that it's beneficial to follow bedtime routines and rituals with our young children—and we really do try to stick with them—they too are often cut short or rushed. But following through on this nighttime habit really is worth the effort; reserving that time and making it special reaps both immediate and long-term rewards for you and your child.
The rituals below allow you insight into what your child is thinking and help you build a bond and intimacy difficult to develop during hectic days. If your child doesn't catch on to these rituals at first, be patient. Try again the next night, and soon one or two of these will become a cozy, welcomed routine.
This bedtime idea is bound to be a favorite for many families! Tuck your child in or snuggle up with her and tell stories of funny things she did when she was a baby or toddler. Children delight in being the central focus of stories, and what is unique to one child separates him from his siblings and helps to define him. Children love repetition, so it's unlikely you'll be at a loss for ideas.
Relate silly or memorable things that happened on family vacations or during family get-togethers. Some tales undoubtedly will become family lore like the visit we had from a squirrel that ran across the dining room floor during Thanksgiving dinner and the human chase that followed. Years later, the children, now teens and young adults, still ask if we're inviting a guest squirrel to dinner each year.
The Good and the Bad
Within this bedtime ritual, parents have time to praise the good things a child reports as well as help him with decision-making and problem-solving related to bad things he may have encountered—a toy broken by a friend, a lost sweater, or the demise of a goldfish.
If you start this ritual when children are young, they are more likely to express their feelings and be willing to ask for your help when they are older and bedtime rituals are a thing of the past.
When I Grow up I Want to Be…
A preschooler may want to be a rabbit, a giraffe, or a clown one night, a firefighter, doctor, or police officer the next. Ask you child what she would do if she were a monkey, for example, and discover her fantasies. With older children, you have the chance to explore and explain endless career possibilities. Every night will be an eye-opening peek into your child's mind.
Once Upon a Time
Invent a story and make your child the hero or heroine, always! Be sure to include his or her friends and family in the story. Run the story over several nights or begin a new one each night.