As child sleep consultants, we can’t stress enough how crucial a good bedtime routine is in establishing healthy sleep habits. But there is a remarkable aspect of bedtime routines that research has recently highlighted – they are also a powerful tool for nurturing resilience in children.
Resilience, the ability to bounce back from stress, adversity, or even failure, is an essential life skill. Resilient children are more likely to take healthy risks, pick themselves up after tough times, and stand up for themselves – qualities we want every child to develop. So how does a simple routine at bedtime play into this? Let’s dive in.
Bedtime Routines as the Building Blocks of Resilience
Picture a typical bedtime routine. There is a beautiful rhythm to it, isn’t there? Bath time, teeth brushing, slipping into comfy pajamas, choosing a favorite bedtime story. All these actions, executed in order, provide predictability that is soothing to children. This stability and repetition tell them, “You’re going to be okay,” giving them a secure base from which they can brave the unpredictable world – the very essence of resilience.
These routines give a child a sense of order and security, which is a comfort in a world that is often out of their control. By fostering a sense of predictability and safety, we are setting a base for them to explore, experience, and even stumble, knowing they can always return to this safe haven.
Transforming Bedtime Routines into Resilience-Building Rituals
Let’s explore how we, as child sleep consultants, can guide parents in using these bedtime routines to foster resilience in their little ones, focusing on toddlers and preschoolers.
1. Make Bedtime a Time for Quiet Talk
Bedtime is not just a pre-sleep ritual; it’s also an opportunity to engage in meaningful conversations. As sleep consultants, we should encourage parents to fill these moments with enriching dialogue, which can foster both emotional intelligence and resilience in children.
Consider the typical steps of a bedtime routine: bathing, dressing for bed, brushing teeth, and finally tucking in with a story. Each of these steps is a potential avenue for communication. Parents should be guided to use this time to ask questions, show interest, and engage in dialogue with their children.
Take teeth brushing, for instance. Instead of making this a rushed, mechanical chore, we can encourage parents to make it interactive. They can ask the child, “What’s the next step after we rinse our toothbrush?” or “Why do we brush our teeth at night?” Engaging children in such a way not only improves their understanding and memory of the routine but also promotes their cognitive development.
However, the benefits go beyond just cognitive growth. Such interactions allow parents to subtly model emotional expression and empathy. They can share how they felt during the day and invite the child to do the same. Or they might discuss how a character in the bedtime story might be feeling. This process gives children the language to express their feelings and the understanding that emotions are a normal part of life.
Learning to express and manage their emotions is a crucial aspect of resilience. Children who can talk about their feelings are better equipped to handle life’s ups and downs. By incorporating conversation into bedtime routines, we are not just setting children up for a good night’s sleep, but also giving them tools to navigate their emotional world confidently.
2. Explain the ‘Why’ Behind Bedtime Tasks
While we may view bedtime tasks as a simple, daily duty, for children, they are opportunities to learn, grow, and understand their world. As sleep consultants, we can help parents transform these moments into meaningful teaching opportunities. By explaining the ‘why’ behind each task in the bedtime routine, parents can foster curiosity, responsibility, and resilience in their children.
Take, for instance, tidying up toys before bed. Rather than just instructing the child to clean up, parents could say, “We need to put your toys back in their place, so our room is safe, and we don’t stumble on them when we get up in the morning.” This explanation not only gives the child a reason to complete the task but also makes them aware of the cause-and-effect relationships and the importance of maintaining a safe environment.
Or consider the act of changing into pajamas. Parents can explain, “We put on our soft, comfy pajamas to help our bodies know it’s time to rest and sleep.” This simple explanation helps the child understand the importance of physical comfort for good sleep and the role of cues in signaling our bodies.
These are just a few examples. The beauty of explaining the ‘why’ is that it can be applied to any part of the bedtime routine, from brushing teeth to reading a bedtime story. The key is to convey the purpose of each action in a way that a child can understand and relate to.
In this process, children not only learn about the world but also about responsibility and consequences. They begin to understand that their actions are important and have effects, which is a key aspect of resilience. A resilient child knows that they have the ability to impact their own life and the lives of those around them.
So, let’s remind parents to reveal the ‘why’ behind the bedtime routine tasks. This simple strategy can empower children, foster their resilience, and make the bedtime routine a more enjoyable and meaningful experience for everyone involved.
3. Be Consistent, Yet Flexible
It’s no secret that consistency is the backbone of a solid bedtime routine. Regular repetition of the same activities in the same order helps to cue children’s brains for sleep, setting the stage for better sleep quality and duration. But as child sleep consultants advising parents, it’s essential to communicate the necessity of flexibility within that consistency. Real-life isn’t always predictable and disruptions to the routine will occur.
Parents should be encouraged to uphold the routine as best as possible, but not to the point of causing stress or anxiety. There might be days when an unexpected visit from relatives, an evening outing, or a child’s illness interrupts the routine. It is on these days that adaptability becomes critical.
Let’s imagine that the bedtime story, an integral part of the child’s sleep routine, is skipped due to a late return from a family event. Instead of fretting over the missed story, parents can address this disruption openly with their child. They might say, “We got home late today, so we missed our bedtime story. But guess what? Tomorrow, we can read two stories instead of one. Won’t that be exciting?”
This approach reassures the child that while routines are important, occasional changes are okay and won’t negatively affect their world. Importantly, it also demonstrates adaptability, a core aspect of resilience. By witnessing and experiencing this flexibility, children learn that they too can adapt to changes and disruptions in their lives, which is a valuable lesson in resilience.
Moreover, it is essential to remember that flexibility doesn’t mean inconsistency. It’s about navigating disruptions in a positive, constructive way while maintaining the overall structure of the bedtime routine.
4. Celebrate Small Wins and Encourage Independence
Encouraging children to take an active role in their bedtime routine not only makes the process smoother, but it also nurtures independence. Say a child starts brushing their teeth on their own or choosing what PJs to wear to bed – these might seem like small steps, but they are significant steps in a child’s journey to independence. And each of these independent acts helps build resilience, empowering them to face and overcome challenges in the future.
One key thing we can remind parents of is the importance of celebrating these small victories. A simple, “Wow, you’re doing that all by yourself? That’s great!” can go a long way in boosting a child’s confidence and encouraging them to keep trying new things.
Remember, when parents acknowledge their child’s efforts (not just the end result), it fosters a ‘growth mindset.’ Children start to realize that it’s the effort and the process that matters, not just getting it right. And that’s a crucial life lesson right there – a fundamental building block of resilience.
Furthermore, remind parents that resilience, like any skill, takes time to build. It’s important to stay patient and consistent, celebrating each little progress, each small win. With time, these small steps will add up to a confident, resilient child who’s ready to tackle the challenges that life throws their way.
In essence, bedtime routines extend beyond establishing a sleep pattern. They provide a daily opportunity for emotional growth, resilience-building, and the creation of secure, well-adjusted children. As child sleep consultants, this gives us an even more compelling argument to advocate for the crucial role of bedtime routines. They are not just nightly rituals; they are life skills lessons with far-reaching implications for our children’s future. Let’s equip parents to seize these moments to their fullest.
How to Become a Child Sleep Consultant?
If you are passionate about understanding baby’s sleep habits and want to help families dealing with sleep challenges, this could be the perfect path for you. Becoming a child sleep consultant is more than just a career – it’s an opportunity to make a real, tangible difference in people’s lives.
So, if this resonates with you and you see yourself helping children and their families achieve better sleep, and in turn, a better quality of life, you might want to consider becoming a child sleep consultant. Explore our programs, dive into the resources available, and start your journey towards this meaningful profession.
Mindell, J.A., Li, A.M., Sadeh, A., Kwon, R., & Goh, D.Y. (2015). Bedtime routines for young children: a dose-dependent association with sleep outcomes. SLEEP, 38(5), 717-722. https://doi.org/10.5665/sleep.4662
Masten, A.S. (2001). Ordinary magic: Resilience processes in development. American Psychologist, 56(3), 227–238. https://doi.org/10.1037/0003-066X.56.3.227
Bayer, J.K., Hiscock, H., Hampton, A., & Wake, M. (2007). Sleep problems in young infants and maternal mental and physical health. Journal of Paediatrics and Child Health, 43(1-2), 66–73. https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1440-1754.2007.01005.x
Luby, J., Belden, A., Botteron, K., Marrus, N., Harms, M.P., Babb, C., … & Barch, D. (2013). The effects of poverty on childhood brain development: the mediating effect of caregiving and stressful life events. JAMA Pediatrics, 167(12), 1135-1142. https://doi.org/10.1001/jamapediatrics.2013.3139
Eisenberg, N., Spinrad, T.L., & Eggum, N.D. (2010). Emotion-related self-regulation and its relation to children’s maladjustment. Annual Review of Clinical Psychology, 6, 495-525. https://doi.org/10.1146/annurev.clinpsy.121208.131208
Hudziak, J.J., Achenbach, T.M., Althoff, R.R., & Pine, D.S. (2007). A dimensional approach to developmental psychopathology. International Journal of Methods in Psychiatric Research, 16(S1), S16-S23. https://doi.org/10.1002/mpr.217
Raby, K. L., Roisman, G. I., Fraley, R. C., & Simpson, J. A. (2015). The enduring predictive significance of early maternal sensitivity: Social and academic competence through age 32 years. Child Development, 86(3), 695–708. https://doi.org/10.1111/cdev.12325
Bronfenbrenner, U., & Morris, P. (2006). The bioecological model of human development. In R. M. Lerner (Ed.), Handbook of child psychology: Vol. 1. Theoretical models of human development (6th ed., pp. 793–828). John Wiley & Sons.
Cicchetti, D. (2013). Annual Research Review: Resilient functioning in maltreated children: Past, present, and future perspectives. Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry, 54(4), 402–422. https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1469-7610.2012.02608.x
Luthar, S.S., Cicchetti, D., & Becker, B. (2000). The construct of resilience: a critical evaluation and guidelines for future work. Child Development, 71(3), 543-562.