The purpose of a good evening routine is to get everyone calm and settled enough to get to sleep at a decent hour. When children do not get enough sleep, their school work and school behavior suffers. Sometimes children who haven’t gotten enough sleep act tired and groggy, but just as often they act wild and inattentive. School-age children need 9-10 hours of sleep every night to be healthy and mentally alert. That means if your child gets up at 7 a.m., he has to be in bed by 9 p.m. And many parents do not get enough sleep either! You cannot be healthy and take care of your family if you are exhausted.
Two things have to happen before a family can have a good evening routine. First, the homework routine has to be in place. When evenings are spent in a battle over homework, no one can be calm and settled. Second, there has to be a family policy about outside commitments. If every afternoon and evening is a constant round of activities, there is no time for homework, family dinner, and an evening routine. I suggest that you limit everyone in the family to one or two outside activities at a time. Otherwise our lives get as cluttered as our homes!
Here are some suggested steps for a good evening routine.
Everyone gets home from work, sports practice and after-school care around 5:30. While Mom or Dad gets dinner going, the kids work on homework.
After dinner, everyone has some time to finish homework, play, talk, read, or watch TV. Do not allow children to get overstimulated with wild play, violent video games, or scary TV shows. Keep it calm and easy. Most elementary school children are supposed to read to a parent every night, and now is a good time to do that.
Start the bedtime routine about an hour before bedtime. Have it written down and posted for each child. Each child is responsible for their own routine. Here is an example for an elementary school child:
Collect homework and school supplies, get parents to sign whatever needs to be signed, get everything in the backpack, put the backpack by the door.
Choose clothes for the next day and lay them out.
Get in the tub for a bath, or wash face and hands if it’s not a bath night.
Get in pajamas.
Get in bed for some quiet time with Mom or Dad. You have to do exactly the same thing at the same time every night. If you do, then your child’s body will be trained to fall asleep at the end of the bedtime routine.
Middle and high school kids still need a routine, although it will be different and they have to be part of establishing it. Preparing for the morning is still appropriate, as is some quiet time reading in bed before going to sleep.
Once the children are in bed, it’s time to wind down yourself and get ready for a good night’s sleep.