The bedtime battle is one all parents can relate to. “I’m thirsty”, “I’m hungry”, “It’s too hot!” – you’re totally nodding your head right now aren’t you?
Many mums think that the bedtime battle would get easier when children get older. But sometimes it just morphs into a whole other battle.
Why your kids want to finally talk at bedtime
According to Child sleep and behaviour consultant, Mylee Zschech, it’s not actually a tactic to delay bedtime, it’s actually the perfect time for children to open up.
“The bedtime routine brings a feeling of intimacy, of closeness with your parents, which can make a child feel more inclined to open up,” Zschech told Romper.
“The other aspect is that while children are doing something else, for example, getting on their PJs or having a bath, they might feel more comfortable to open up because they aren’t feeling like eyes are directly on them, which lessens the likelihood of feeling self-consciousness.”
Dr Anna Cohen, Author of Taming Teens told The Healthy Mummy, “Children like to debrief and talk about their day, but often when you pick them up from school it is not good ‘talking time’ – they are tired, they want to get into other things or get into some quiet time.
Dr Anna added, “When they go to bed – as parents, you are thinking they are really tired – they may actually want to voice their concerns.
Parents shouldn’t use that time to raise their own grievances or content – It is a time to use active listening and summarise what they are saying. It is not a good time to raise parenting concerns.
“It’s not always a stalling tactic – Families are very busy, so kids don’t have a lot of downtime. Bedtime is a nice intimate time and that’s when they may feel relaxed enough to talk about their day.
“Parents need to be reasonable. If you know your child takes longer to settle down, or if you know your child needs to download at the end of the day it’s a good idea to start the routine earlier.
Children yearn for connection. They are going to strive for attention whether it is positive or negative – and if we, as parents, can turn that into a positive, it will benefit both child and parent.
We need goodwill for our children to do the right thing and the more connection there is, the more likely they will do what is asked of them.”
Finding the right time to talk
Dr. Heather Felton, M.D., FAAP, associate professor of paediatrics at the University of Louisville, and spokesperson for the American Academy of Paediatrics said, “If there is something that is really bothering your child, then you should listen. It is also OK to say that there isn’t anything they can do about it now. Make a note of it, write it down and make a plan to talk about it the next day when you will be able to devote more time to it.”
If it means you have to get the kids organised for bed a bit earlier so you can take the time to chat to them, then there is your answer!
How to get your kids to open up
“In my parenting programs I encourage parents to offer special nurture at night-time. Talk about sunshine (grateful things), storm clouds (challenges), and rainbows (overcoming difficulties) from their day. Ask your child what they are looking forward to tomorrow. Tell them you love them. Make bedtime super special,” said Dr Justin.
Ask them what was great about today. Teaching them gratitude and appreciation is a great habit for kids.
Ask them what they are looking forward to. It gives them a chance to open up and share what is exciting and motivating to them at the moment.
The most important thing you can say to your child every night is, “I love you!” followed by a hug and a kiss (if you are still allowed).
There are a few other things you can do to try and encourage your children to open up to you more and discuss things at a more appropriate time.
1. Notice the little conversation openers
2. Ask nonjudgmental questions that require real answers.
3. Don’t jump in with solutions and advice.
4. Make sure you connect with each of your children every single day
5. Build “special time” with them – be it a coffee date or movie night
6. Always be available and ready to listen without distractions
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