01/06/2015 06:11 pm ET Updated Mar 08, 2015

Is Your Bedtime Routine a Nightmare?

Bedtime can be one of the most difficult parts of a parent's day. At the end of most days, everyone in the family is feeling tired, depleted and out of patience, which makes getting the kids to bed without a fight extra tricky and extra important. Keep reading for some easy, effective ideas you can start using with your kids tonight!

If you don't have a bedtime routine yet or you're not consistent with it, now is the time to start. I know you're exhausted and busy and right now might seem like the worst time to make up a routine and stick, but letting the chaos go on will likely make things harder on everyone in the long run. Having a regular bath time and bedtime routine definitely helps our nights go smoothly. I'm not going to lie, it's still a constant challenge for me to stay on time and not get lazy about things, but I do it anyway because I know it works for us. How do I know?

Well... because I see how wonky things get for all of us if my kids stay up late to do something special, skip part of their routine, or if I give in to the onslaught of "Please, just one more thing?!?" Routines can be as short or long, as simple or elaborate as you need them to be. Think about what activities help your kids feel relaxed and calm and start there. You're not looking for perfection, just a place to start. Have fun with it.

Already have a routine already? Great. Here are some other things to think about:

I try really hard to let my kids know that their routines came out of my love and respect for them, not frustration (even though sometimes I am feeling really frustrated.) There's such a big difference between saying to a little person, "You need to go to bed now because it's bedtime," or "You need to go to bed now because I've had enough," and "I love you so much that I want you to get a good night sleep so you can be rested and have energy for all of your big adventures tomorrow." With the last one, there's nothing to fight or resist, just love.

On really hard nights, I do add some extras to our regular routines to help my kids settle and stay in bed.

  • A homeopathic remedy (Quietude by Boiron or Rescue Remedy) that takes the edge off their restlessness
  • Lavender oil in their bath to make it special and soothing
  • Guided meditations for kids (these are amazing and my kids get really into them!)
  • Massaging their little feet and legs helps them to relax and stay lying down
  • Letting them choose the ONE thing that's going to help them get to sleep (i.e. water or a snuggle) and sticking to just one thing
Please know that no matter how brilliant, the same thing won't work every single time. As a parent, I find it's best to have a few different choices to rotate through or layer depending on what's going on that night. On really, really hard nights we might do all of these things.

The thing about sleep is that it can be such a tricky and tentative thing. A bad cold, holidays, daylight savings time or a new phase (growth spurt, separation anxiety, nightmares, etc.) can really throw things off. If you have a decent routine going and notice a sudden, big difference in your little person's behaviour at bedtime, try to think about what's been going on in your life and in your family that may be creating some stress (good or bad, any change can create stress!) Figuring out what's changed is not a solution itself, but it can help the situation make more sense to your grown-up mind and help you stay calm and patient in the moment.
Sweet dreams!

Christine Marion-Jolicoeur helps busy parents find the joy in everyday moments so they can raise healthy, connected kids. She's an Amazon #1 bestselling author, published in Huffington Post and elephant journal and creator of the Joyful Parenting workbook + ecourse. You can download the free Joyful Parenting ebook, your 6 step guide to confidence, clarity and connection with your kids when you need it most at