If the art of successful real estate comes down to location, location, location, then the art of happy parenting comes down to sleep, sleep and more sleep.
With everything we’ve learned from recent scientific studies of sleep, of which there are many, the wisdom of our grandparents about getting kids to bed on time has been soundly confirmed, should we ever have doubted it (and I certainly did).
Since we’ve come to learn about the importance of our sleep cycles and terms like circadian rhythms have become common parlance, more and more people are paying attention to their sleep schedules. Emotional dysregulation is a medical term which usually leads practitioners to inquire about their patients’ sleep and dietary habits. No matter how much we may live in our heads, we can’t escape the fact that we also live in our bodies and they need food, water and rest. Not only do they need rest but they need regular sleep at specific times if we’re to live happy, healthy lives.
This can be one of the hardest things for modern families to impose where many parents have established well-ingrained habits of staying up late and getting up at the last possible moment. This kind of lifestyle does not make the role of parent any easier. There’s no getting away from it… the better rested we are as parents, the more we’re able to cope with the inevitable ups and downs of our children.
Sleep, beautiful sleep.
Moreover, the more accustomed out children are to sleeping soundly in their beds at regular times throughout the day, the more of a pleasure they are to be around. As a parent of children with years of comparing notes with other families, I defy anyone to say otherwise. Good sleep habits for parents and children alike engender a happy atmosphere in the home.
How do you change gear if you’re already struggling with your family? You have to make some decisions:
What time is a good bedtime for you and your children?
If you have children that wake up early in the morning, you have to work back from there. Two-year-olds need 12-14 hours of sleep per day to be the radiant little beams of light we love them to be. There’s a good guide here with time recommendations for other age groups and a comprehensive one here. The same goes for parents… if you need 8 hours sleep and your kid’s waking up at five… then like it or not… if you’re not going to be the grumpy grouch, short of temper and ready to explode… you need to be in bed by nine. Just face it. Sounds boring? Which would you prefer? Gliding around the supermarket, calm like the model of perfect parenting or having your toddler screaming on the floor while you’re boiling white hot inside?
How do you schedule enough time for you to enjoy life as an adult?
So if you’re getting to grips with the fact you’re going to bed early for the foreseeable future… how do you get to have a few hours per day for your own entertainment? That break in the afternoon is indispensable – even if that’s just for catching up with the household chores (although I personally recommend that nap time should be a sacred time of quiet and relaxation). Having your own life is key if you’re not going to end up a tangled ball of resentment. This is why a 6-7pm bedtime is essential if those little blighters aren’t going to ruin your love life and get the better of you. And what about afternoon naps? Making sure your children go down for proper naps from an early age is something you’ll thank yourself for later. When an air of peace and calm descends over the house and you can have a few moments to do something for just for you, you’ll be kissing the silence like it was a new lover.
When do your children have naps during the day?
Mine have always slept at least once a day, usually an afternoon nap after the immediate rush of energy has subsided after lunch. Anything from 1-3 hours has meant that I’ve been able to follow my own pursuits for years, even if that’s only been attending to immediate business concerns.
Do I always follow my own advice? No… and it usually takes just a few hours for me to get my arse kicked and properly reminded why it’s all just a lot better when we get to bed on time!