Happy holidays! They say it’s the most wonderful time of the year – and it is in many ways – but not always when it comes to keeping up with bedtime routines and making sure your kids get enough shut-eye. They get wound up on sweets, excited by the activities, eager for Santa, the list goes on. This year, go into the thick of it armed with expert tips to avoid meltdowns and sleep deprivation. Here’s how to solve the biggest problems with holiday bedtime routines.
Problem: Your child is riled up with no calm in sight.
Solution: Plan ahead.
- Prep guests. Let guests know in advance what your child’s bedtime is. Let grandma and grandpa know that even though you want them to be able to spend as much time as possible with the baby, sleep is a priority. If it’s the midst of a party, let people know your child needs quiet and calm and you’ll both be relaxing in a back room (and do not want to be disturbed). Hopefully with some gentle prompting, your guests will respect your family’s sleep routines.
- Skip bedtime snacks that disrupt sleep. During the holidays, we’re surrounded by sweets and you probably know to avoid them far in advance of bedtime. But, did you know cereal, pizza, and red meat are top offenders, too? Click through for our full list of what to avoid and choose sleep-promoting snacks instead. Learn which snacks are best here.
- Calm down. Holidays can leave us feeling pretty frazzled, but babies and kids sense your emotions, so your best bet for calming them down, is to calm yourself down first. Take a few minutes to breathe deeply, give yourself a quick temple or shoulder rub, and try to relax.
Problem: You’re traveling and it’s messing up all routines.
Solution: Be prepared.
Here are tips for travel from Cloud b advisor Kim West, LCSW-C, The Sleep Lady:
- Bring comfort items. Always bring along the lovey and pack a night light, and as there’s no such thing as traveling light with a small child anyway, go ahead and take along favorite books and toys.
- Sleep in one place. Choose one set of grandparents/relatives as a “base camp” and arrange to have relatives come there to visit them or to spend part of the day at other family members’ homes. You can carefully explain to all concerned why your baby needed this, and to avoid bruised feelings or rivalries they immediately let all concerned know that the other grandparents/relatives would be the “base” for the next visit.
- If you are sharing a room with your child: If you have to share a room or bed with your older child while traveling, I like reminding children of sleep rules even while we’re bending them. When you are home, make it a top priority to return to your normal routine as quickly as possible.
Problem: The holidays are over and my child doesn’t want to cooperate at bedtime.
Solution: Have patience.
- Expect setbacks. Bumps in routines can quickly lead to sleep regression. Whether your child wants to sleep with you after rooming together in a hotel or they want changes to their bedtime routine, it’s up to you to set them straight. Go back to the routines you had before, use the same tactics you did to sleep train them previously, and work your way forward again.
- Try New Year’s sleep resolutions. Kids are much more cooperative when they’re empowered. Tell your child that their bedtime routine is going to be mostly the same, but that you’d like them to choose a New Year’s sleep resolution. For young children, you might need to explain what a New Year’s resolution is – but, no matter what age, it sounds very grown-up and enticing. Choose 2-5 options suitable to their age and let them select one. It could be taking 5 deep breaths after laying down to welcome relaxation or fluffing their pillow before laying down to make sure it’s extra comfy for their sleepy heads. Pick simple things and connect them to how it will make them sleep better. Write it on a piece of paper and have them “sign” their name to make it “official.” Oftentimes, this one simple but empowering change to their bedtime routine makes slipping back into healthy routines happen much faster.