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Tips & Advice

How to Put the Kids to Bed and Enjoy Your Evening

by Rachel Bertsche

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Photo credit: FG Trade / Getty Images

Bedtime can be one of the toughest times of day — so much wrangling and negotiating, even pleading, as you try to get everyone calmed down and tucked in. But it’s also one of the most important times. For kids, it’s a quiet and reliable ritual in an ever-changing world. And for parents, it’s the last task before some very necessary “me time.” In my latest book, The Kids Are in Bed: Finding Time for Yourself in the Chaos of Parenting, I make the case (and provide strategies) for reclaiming your downtime. But the first step, of course, is getting the kids to bed. Here are three tips for making everyone’s bedtime a little bit easier and a lot more pleasant.

1. Find a Routine and Stick To It

Bedtime goes faster and more smoothly if everyone knows what to expect. In my house, that means going to the bathroom and brushing teeth, then getting into bed and reading — two chapters for my first grader, who recently upgraded to graphic novels and short chapter books, and two picture books for my four-year-old. Of course, there are still last-minute requests for water or to be tucked in just one more time, but the routine eliminates most surprises.

2. Talk to Your Kids About What Your Night Will Entail

I suffer from a severe case of FOMO, and my daughter definitely inherited that. For a while, her bedtime reluctance was tied to the fear that she was missing exciting action downstairs. Now I tell her what I’ll be up to: “Mommy’s going to clean up and then read,” I’ll say. Or, “I’m going to exercise in the basement.” Even, “I’m going to bed, too!” on a rare early evening. It’s important not just because of the FOMO, but because I want my kids to see that I prioritize taking care of myself. I hope that one day, when they have kids, they’ll do the same.

3. Do for Yourself What You Do for Your Kids

You wouldn’t let your son pass out in front of the television every night, and I doubt you’d encourage your daughter to spend every waking hour working until she can’t see straight — so you shouldn’t either. Just as wind-down rituals are important for our kids, they make a difference for adults, too. Parenthood requires patience, tolerance, and good humor, which are hard to come by when you don’t take the time to refill your cup. So put the screen away and wind down with a good book and some quiet – your kids will thank you in the morning.