Sunday 30 April 2017

The security of a bedtime routine

Jane getting into bed

Routines.  They keep our home ticking over. We've been following the same routines to get ourselves out the door ready for school for years.  Whenever there was a change needed, we've given time for the routine to change, notice of it happening and sometimes, we even did trial runs.  And it's exactly the same for getting the kids to bed.

As a mum of autistic and ADHD kids we've traditionally been a family that has struggled with sleep. Every parent expects a period of sleepless nights, but no one really expects it to last for, in our case, nine years. It was something I was talking about with Jo Frost, parenting expert last week.  We spoke about making it as easy as possible for children to settle, helping them learn that's it's time for sleep and giving them the cues they need to fall asleep at bedtime and even when they wake up again at night.

My husband and I discovered a while ago that we can't stop some of the difficulties our kids have but we can make it easier for them by keeping a routine.  I guess I didn't even notice that when we had our third child, Jane, she benefitted from the routine too.  She will even read a story to her stuffed animals while we are getting everyone ready.

It just makes sense really.  I remember when there was 'restructuring' at my work. In fact, I've had several jobs in a few companies prior to spending most of my time at home with the children, and there were changes in all of them. Some changes were implemented well... others poorly.  And in all cases the phrase 'people don't like change' was used.  And if that's the case for adults.. then it's no surprise it's the same for our kids. Add in autism and change can be really difficult. Doing things the same helps with learning, understanding and provides security. This gives all my kids the opportunity to enjoy or focus on what's happening, instead of worrying about what's going on and what's different.

So, we've been running a bath, book and into bed routine for as long as I can remember.  Some kids can benefit from a pictorial or visual timetable to help with this.  If we are having a bit of a routine wobble I pull out one of the books that emphasises this routine as well as helping them use their imagination.  The ace up my sleeve is 'Hop into Bedtime'.

Hop into Bedtime

It is brilliant for reinforcing the routine for a few nights and also calms the children down.  It's a little story of the children in fictional street having their teas, baths, stories then going to their beds.  At the end of the story all the children are in bed.. it says good night to them all and then goodnight to the street.  Whereas I start the story in a relatively chirpy voice and we joke about splashing in the bath, by the end I'm whispering as we point at each of the kids in the book and say a sleepy goodnight to the street.

Everything has calmed down, everyone is quiet so they can hear my whisper.  And then they all hop into bed for a hug, kiss and a squeeze.  Then we say 'night night, time for sleep'.  Some kids may prefer 'see you in the morning' as this lets them know you'll still be there.

The book goes over the routine again and it means we can have an easier bedtime for a few nights and children drift from bedroom, to bathroom, to bedroom and bed.  And although Anthony's ADHD means he needs to be refocused during the stages, he's not stressed because it's all as he expects. There are many great books that help kids think about bedtime - just pick one that works for you. Then everyone (including you) feels safe and even if they don't drift off to sleep right away, our kids usually stay in their bed or bedroom until they do.

I can't advocate enough for a good bath, book and bed routine, but if you've tried this and are still having difficulty, you might look at the other things we know about to help kids go to sleep.  You can also read about what's it's like taking a small child to a sleep clinic too.

What works for you, what's your favourite bedtime book?


  1. My girls are in a routine of bath every other night and book and bed. Although I've lacked the bedtime story book for a while now due to having my third and find bedtimes so exhausting recently! #MarvMondays

  2. I've heard a lot about this book. I swear routine is what has made my little boy a good sleeper. We've had the same routine since he was tiny. He just understands bed time. Thanks for linking up to #TtriumphantTales :)

  3. Routine is what I think has made Ben a great sleeper. From the get go, we sorted a routine that fits us all and fellow parent friends come over and are shocked its so quiet and he never stirs.
    Thank you for sharing this book with us at #TriumphantTales. I love Jo Frost and love that she's supporting this!


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