Our kids (ages 5 and 2) share a bedroom, and bedtime has become a marathon event. There is a lot of stalling from both of them: asking for a glass of water, turning lullabies on or off (through a baby monitor in another room), needing me to fix blankets repeatedly, and/or my son getting out of bed multiple times (the two-year-old is still in a crib, otherwise she’d probably be doing this too!). And both of them needing to be cuddled or held is also a big issue—especially because my husband often works late, leaving me to put them to bed alone, and I can only be in one place at a time. But even when he is home for bedtime, there are arguments about who gets Mommy or Daddy first, and inevitably both kids want the same parent at the same time.
It is usually well over an hour between “lights out” and when I can finally leave the room, and I am utterly exhausted. I am trying to build more playfulness and connection into our bedtime routine (and our lives in general), but am not sure what to do when that still isn’t enough and upsets surface. It is especially hard to set limits and staylisten at bedtime with our set-up, because the other child gets woken and/or upset. For example, my daughter might be settled and close to sleep in her crib, and if her brother keeps getting out of bed and we’re both in and out of the room multiple times, she’ll get roused and have a hard time settling again. Or my son might be close to falling asleep, and his sister will start to cry when I say goodnight, and then he’s up again too—and understandably wants to leave the room while she is crying. And then it’s a battle to get him back in bed when she is done crying. Also, one will mimic the other with the stalling techniques: if one asks for a glass of water, then the other will ask for one too, etc, etc.
So are there any tools or tips specifically for helping two kids with bedtime issues at the same time? Any bedtime games I can play with both of them to help with our particular situation? We’ve toyed with the idea of moving one child out of the room, either temporarily or permanently, but I worry this will only create new issues. Ideally we’d like them both go to sleep in the same room at around the same time.
Thanks in advance for any input!
Hi Good Mama,
I’m so sorry, Sandy that it took me awhile to get back to you. We’ve been down with the flu for the last week. And I’m sorry bedtime is tough.
Since I only have one son, who is 13 and puts himself to bed, I checked in with one of our Instructor Candidates who has 2 kiddos about the same age as yours. She recommended a few great ideas:
1) EXPECT that they are going to need you for at least an hour and PLAN for it. I would add to that START EARLIER. Bedtime was the first tough time I tackled when my son was about 5. Bedtime tends to kick up a lot of FEAR because it’s a time of SEPARATION. We are hard-wired for Connection and Play and bedtime is the end of connection and play.
It’s great that you are already thinking about putting more connection and play into your bedtime routine. I say start earlier because what really helped us, was me thinking of bedtime starting as soon as we got home from school. That was the beginning of bedtime, and I did my best to make our connection and play pretty seamless. We did Special Time when we got home, We had an early dinner. I moved the reading of books to the dinner table because the ending of the books just before “lights out” was to difficult for my son. It was a transition on top of a transition. We did piggy back rides to the bath and then back to the bed after the bath. We had a wild 2 minute pillow fight and then I would say ‘lights out’. I’d put on the music, turn out the light, and my son would crawl into my lap and most nights fall asleep within 10-15 minutes.
2) Our Candidate Dorina says that she gets the best results from playing rough’n’tumble physical games that are specifically about bedtime. She starts being playful from the moment she announces it’s time for bed. Saying things like “I hope these children stand still so I can get their pajamas on them”– which of course, starts them running, and then she chases them wildly around the room, and never quite catches them. She plans that she will have to do this for about an hour so that they can offload enough tension/fear through the laughter and they feel connected enough and powerful enough that they can relax and fall asleep.
This is our Tool PLAYLISTENING. – where you PLAY with the refusal/behavior and then LISTEN for the laughter. Dorina has found that she gets fewer avoidance tactics when she does this kind of play where she takes the LESS powerful role and goes for the giggles. I’m including 3 articles that have lots of ideas for Playlistening games. This first one has kiddos of different ages, so I think it can help spark your imagination.
Since bedtime is separation, these games can do double duty.
And then some ideas for when you are too pooped to play:
As for the Mommy/Daddy fight, just know that this is a PRETEXT – an excuse to get upset when the real issue is the FEAR OF SEPARATION. You can PLAYLISTEN with this as well.
Lastly, if you do not have a LISTENING PARTNER yet, please, please, please get some Listening Time yourself. It is a huge job to be supporting their feelings and tension by yourself. YOU need emotional support in order to be able to be playful and patient and even BRING A LIMIT. And Dorina says that it inevitably happens that one child wakes the other. Getting regular Listening Time will help you to prepare emotionally for that possibility, understanding that they are just scared – not trying to torture you.
You are already on your way to handling this good Mama. I hope our thoughts help. Let us know how it goes,..
Peace & Smiles,
Hand in Hand Certified Instructor
Conscious Child-raising Creating Cooperation and Peace
Follow me on facebook: Parenting by Connection with Kathy
“If we are to teach real peace in the world, we shall have to begin with children” – Gandhi
Thank you so much Kathy! I didn’t even think about the separation anxiety angle, so that is a huge “a-ha” for me. I am a SAHM, so my kids are with me most of the time, plus part of the reason they share a room is so they aren’t alone at night. But of course, a sibling is not a parent, and maybe separation is harder at bedtime since they deal with less of it day-to-day. Anyway, I will dig into the links you posted.
And I do really need a listening partner—I will post in that thread next. I also just signed up for the Building A Listening Partnership e-course.
Thank you again for your help!
I just wanted to update that thinking of bedtime starting much earlier, and assuming that it is going to take an hour longer than I’ve planned has helped A LOT just over the last few days! I’ve also been working in roughhousing/giggles/connection games throughout the evening, but I haven’t specifically focused on separation anxiety and there still is such a big change. They both were asleep by 8:30 tonight which hasn’t happened in months.
My youngest still naps, so I have also been trying to give her good listening time when she gets upset at naptime. I can really give her my attention then, without worrying about her brother getting riled up, and so I’m hoping that if she can release some big feelings at naptime then they won’t come up as often in the evening. So far, so good!