Parenting expert advises to scrap strict bedtimes for a ‘child-led’ approach
The clock is ticking, edging closer and closer to 7pm, and you’re counting down the minutes until the tantrums begin raging.
Bedtime can be a nightmare for some parents – but, according to parenting expert Kirsty Ketley, the key is to scrap them completely.
Of course, the kids need to get to bed at some point, but Kirsty advises to follow a ‘child-led approach’ over strict bedtimes.
She came to the realisation when getting her own daughter, Ella, now nine, to bed for 7pm, began to feel impossible.
‘Although she was a good sleeper, sometimes she wasn’t ready to sleep at seven o’clock and it didn’t matter how much I tried to do a routine,’ said Kirsty, 42.
Kirsty began paying attention to her children’s energy levels, taking into account how busy they’d been that day – this meant that their nighttime routine would start at any time from 5.30pm to 7pm.
When they had success with Ella, Kirsty and her husband used the same technique with their son, Leo, now six.
‘He very much sometimes needs to go to bed at seven o’clock,’ Kirsty said.
‘Sometimes it’s eight o’clock. It just depends on what kind of days we’ve had and what we’ve been doing.’
However, Kirsty does still advise a nighttime routine: turning off the screens, reading a book, doing some mindfulness techniques and dimming the lights.
When her children were little, they would have a baby massage as well as story time. Now she makes sure to avoid television time for 45 minutes to an hour before bed.
‘There has been research to show that watching television right to the last minute before bed isn’t necessarily going to promote good sleep,’ says Kirsty.
‘Creating 45 minutes to an hour before bedtime is usually what I would recommend for screens off, but of course sometimes that doesn’t always happen in our house.
‘At least aim for half an hour to read books, with the lights dimmed slightly for a calm atmosphere.’
Not only does this cause much less stress, it also helps children to learn their own routine of ‘self-settling,’ according to Kirsty.
‘There are some nights where it’s half 10 and we’ve gone to bed and my daughter’s still not asleep.
‘She has a smart speaker in her bedroom and she knows there’s mindfulness practices on Alexa she uses to relax.
‘She likes playing classical FM too.
‘Or if she’s struggling to switch off and go to sleep, she knows to put on the reading light and sit and do some reading for half an hour, and then try and sleep again.’
Kirsty also said it is important to treat each child as an individual with different sleeping patterns – Ella has always done well on 10 hours of sleep, whereas Leo needs 12.
‘It’s just very individual; they both had the same upbringing, I’ve done the same things, but both of them are very different in how they sleep,’ she said.
The seasons also have an impact on her children’s bedtimes.
‘In summer I think bedtimes quite often shift later because it’s darker later,’ she said.
‘We’ve had blackout blinds, but sometimes we’re just outside all evening as well and you kind of lose track of time a bit.’
She added: ‘We just discuss [bedtime] with them in a way where they feel like they’re in control, but which is still responsible.
‘For example, if you asked your child if they want to stay up until 10 o’clock then of course they’ll want to say yes, so we have discussions where you offer controlled choices so they know what the impact is going to be if they go to bed too late.’
Kirsty has now set up her own sleep consultancy business to help frazzled parents, advocating for an intuitive approach, which takes children’s feelings into account, rather than a rigid routine.
Kirsty’s top tips for developing a relaxing sleep routine
- Try not to fixate on exact timings but do maintain a clear routine
- Read stories with your children
- Turn screens off an hour before bed
- Play relaxing music before bed such as children’s lullabies
- Teach your child mindfulness breathing techniques to help them self-settle
- Go through the alphabet, thinking of four girls’ names and four boys’ names for each letter – usually Kirsty’s children are asleep by ‘G’.
- Make sure rooms are not too hot or cold
- Include a warm bath or shower in the night-time routine
- Use dimmer lighting in the room before bed
Do you have a story to share?
Get in touch by emailing [email protected]
MORE : Sleep tourism: When great nightlife means a good night’s sleep
MORE : Why do the clock changes affect our sleep? Expert tips on avoiding disruption and preparing your body
MORE : Gigi Hadid offers rare insight into co-parenting daughter Khai with ex-boyfriend Zayn Malik
For all the latest Lifestyle News Click Here
For the latest news and updates, follow us on Google News.