Let’s face it, leaving our kids is never easy.
It doesn’t matter whether you’re leaving your newborn overnight for the first time or trusting your teenagers to stay home alone while you and your husband get some much needed time away together; any time you walk away from your home with your kids still in it, you leave a piece of your heart there too.
But it’s no cake walk for our kids either.
Kids thrive on routine, so whenever we do anything to shake that up, a multitude of things can be affected in their lives, especially going to sleep.
I look forward to bedtime with my kids (and not just because it means I can finally have some time to myself).
Bedtime is the time when I can make sense of the day that’s preceded us.
Bedtime is when I can pray over them and with them.
Bedtime is when I can speak truth over them.
Bedtime is when I can calm their fears and address their concerns.
Bedtime is when I can make sure my words are the last they hear before they fall asleep…and I can carefully choose those words so that empowering thoughts dance in their mind as they drift off.
So why would we ever leave our kids during this crucial hour?
For some it’s working the night shift; for others, it’s a girls’ night out. Whatever the reason, the time will come when we won’t be home for our kids when they fall asleep and it’s in those times that all the groundwork you’ve laid in the days, months, and years before will come into effect.
You see, once you develop a bedtime routine with your kids, they find comfort in it, even without you there. The key to helping kids go to sleep is this: consistency.
What you do with your kids before bed doesn’t matter as much as the order you do it in, and the consistency with which you perform it every night.
That’s not to say that the elements of your bedtime ritual are not important, it’s just that what works and doesn’t work may vary with each child. It’s up to you as their parent to discover what comforts them and what they will ultimately look forward to, with or without you there.
For babies, that might be a bath and book before bed.
For school-aged children, you may take time to share about a favorite part of their day before having them read aloud to you.
For teenagers, a simple prayer holding hands in their room after their nightly personal care routine may give them the stability they need.
And really, in addition to consistency, your bedtime routine needs to include one thing: prayer.
From the day our first child was born we have prayed this “special prayer” from Proverbs over our kids before they fell asleep each night:
My son, keep your father’s command and do not forsake your mother’s teaching. Bind them always on your heart; fasten them around your neck. When you walk, they will guide you; when you sleep, they will watch over you; when you awake, they will speak to you. For this command is a lamp, this teaching is a light, and correction and instruction are the way to life… – Proverbs 6:20-23
To this day, more than a decade to the day after our first child was born, we still say those same four verses together as a family just before goodnight kisses and hugs.
Our bedtime routine has shifted over the years as our children have grown, but one thing that has remained a constant in our nighttime ritual is our “special prayer” from Proverbs 6:20-23.
Believe me, there have been those exhausting days where all I wanted to do was tuck my kids in bed and walk out without praying, but even if I pause too long after kissing them, they will ask, what about our special prayer?
If you’re wondering where to start when it comes to a bedtime routine or maybe have never prayed with your children before, take a look at “Night Night, Mommy”. This new book from best-selling author Amy Parker is the perfect tool for parents of toddlers and pre-schoolers to help in settling their little ones settle down for a peaceful and long night of sleep. This book is great for moms who are looking to improve their family’s bedtime routines or for those who simply need to add more stories to the rotation. Night Night, Mommy provides little ones a fun and memorable way to tell Mommy “night night” as they drift off to sleep.
Of course, if you’re the parent of an older child, it’s amazing to sit together on the floor as a family and watch the older siblings read to their younger siblings. Involving older children in this way not only helps them to feel their importance as an integral part of the family unit, but also helps them to realize the important part they play in the lives of their siblings forever.
Whatever it is you do, just follow the words of the popular Matthew West song and “Do Something”! Every family’s nighttime ritual will look different, but remember, the key is consistency…and of course, lots of love and prayer.