I. Love. Bedtime. I always have since I was a little girl. I cherished it when my children were small. I long for it many nights now that they are teenagers. Night time routines have probably witnessed the biggest evolution in our home from the time our children were born until now.
When kids are babies, we must do everything for them from bath time to putting on a fresh diaper, dressing them, nursing them or bottle feeding them, singing them a lullaby or reading them a short picture book until, Lord willing, they drift peacefully to sleep. (Or lay in their crib screaming for 30 minutes… you know… it could go either way!)
As our kids get older, they are more responsible for their night time routines. We may still sit with them while they take a bath, but they are sitting up and playing with their rubber ducky. They begin to dress themselves, pick out THE SAME BOOK to read every night, refuse to go to the bathroom when you know they will be up in the middle of the night if they don’t go right now, and wiggle in your lap instead of sitting still to pray. Ah, those were the days!
Now that I’m a mom of teens, I can tell you that late nights are the norm once again. Laying in a crib crying has morphed into laying in my bed telling me all of the drama of the day (which I’ll admit is WAY better than the crying). We aren’t doing read-alouds anymore. I’m not tucking them in and praying for them, they are now praying independently. They are reading their Bible or using a Bible study… this is the goal… that they would love the Lord and desire the things of the Lord without my prompting.
So if you are a parent of young children, I’d say 8 years old and younger, here are a few strategies to make the most of your bedtime routines:
1) Read from an age-appropriate Bible.
2) Pray for and with your child AND let them pray for you, others, and circumstances they care about.
3) If your child has trouble falling asleep, consider allowing them to listen to character-building Bible stories such as Adventures In Odyssey as they doze off.
If your children are older than 8, they are probably ready for these ideas:
1) Read a story out loud together such as the Chronicles of Narnia. (By 8 years old, most kids have required nightly reading goals and this is a great way to satisfy that while building in spiritual teaching.)
2) Sing together. Pick out some worship music and either play it as everyone is brushing teeth, putting on pajamas, packing up school work, etc. OR musical families may enjoy using voices and instruments to praise God for a few minutes before lights out.
3) Meditation. Teach your children how to calm their mind, body and spirit before the Lord. Sadly, many children in our culture struggle with stress, anxiety and depression from an early age. Teaching them that God is near and we can quiet ourselves before him and listen for his voice is a very critical tool that they can carry with them into adulthood.
If bedtime has been a struggle in your home, I hope that one or more of these suggestions is helpful. “When you lie down” as a family is a wonderful time to draw near to the Lord together.