As I sat writing my first two blogs I knew there would be some parents reading it who would say, “This is all very well, but after an eight hour day working, preparing a meal and making sure the kids have their homework done and are ready with everything for the next school day, the last thing I have energy to do is read a bedtime story.” I understand, I’ve been that parent and I know just how exhausting it can be.
I would urge you to follow a healthy bedtime routine because I know that it will help you and your children to have good quality, unbroken sleep at least ninety percent of the time. I would also urge you to begin the parental bedtime story as soon as your child is old enough to appreciate the interaction; in most cases this is when they move from a cot to a bed.
If, during this early life stage, you introduce a favourite toy or comforter it will pay dividends with the alternate approach I’m about to suggest.
In this scenario you have followed the healthy bedtime routine, which, for those of you who missed it, involves: After dinner activities following a slow wind down of sensory stimulation; no more food or drink (water is OK); homework before screen time; bathe using the same fragrance (non-stimulating is better); then into bed.
Check-in briefly on your child’s mental health and make sure that there’s nothing causing them to worry.
At this point, I’m going to break one of my own rules involving screens by employing the use of technology in the form of a video chat platform.
Position the screen so that the child can be seen, but don’t put it on the bed or invite interaction with the device itself.
Link with grandparents or trusted family members – this is a really lovely way to involve family who live some distance away, as it gives them an important role in the child’s daily life and promotes a connection between the child and that family member.
Invite grandparents or trusted family to read the bedtime story via the platform. The idea is that they can see the child to check that they’re snuggling down.
If you connect the device then you can perhaps provide a ‘handover’ in the form of: We’ve had a bath and done our teeth and so now we’re ready for our story…
The first few times, I suggest that you stay in the room for the snuggle factor, but over time the favourite toy or comforter can become a snuggle substitute.
This approach helps massively with timeliness, as the family member will connect at the same time every night.
It’s worth noting that as time moves on, the story can be extended to include the mental health check.
So, what’s going on here?
Extending important elements of the caregiving to other members of the family is helping to socialise the child by extending their social circle.
If this bedtime story slot, sounds and feels familiar, the child extends their feeling of trust and wellbeing which in turn can reduce pressure on parents not just during the bedtime routine, but later for holidays or overnight stays. The child becomes more accepting of these alternate caregivers thereby reducing anxiety when left.
We humans are social animals. We crave the security, connection and the affection that comes from socialising with others. Building a larger selection of dependable individuals around your child will help them to make friends, build trust, improve their listening and observation skills and ultimately build empathy. In other words, the more, healthy relationships they experience now, the more they will be able to build for themselves.
In my experience, if the person chosen to provide the bedtime story understands the importance of the role, they are honoured to follow the routine and don’t stray into excitement building.
Bedtime stories for alternate caregivers:
Recommended for a parent working away:
Recommended to support the bedtime routine: