Bedtime excitement. One of the most exciting time of day for kids can be when your partner gets home from work. If your kids haven’t seen your partner all day (or longer if they travel for work or work shift work), pardon me, but it can be a circus! From my perspective, as someone who is pretty darn passionate about sleep and dedicated to (aka invested in) a calming bedtime routine leading up to sleep it’s the most frustrating/best part of my day. The phrase “bedtime stimulation” gives me hives.
Thrilled that my partner is home? Absolutely. Breathing fire that my kids are now riled up beyond reasonable recognition? You betcha.
The reality is that it’s not easy to find a tranquil end to the day, let alone calming moments leading up to bedtime, when one of the two most significant people in your child’s life is coming through the door in the hour or half hour leading up to bedtime. When my husband walks through the door our girls don’t just light up, they catch fire – it’s a tornado of “DADDYYYYYYYYYY!!!!!!!”, horsey rides (!!!!!!), look what I did today (!!!!!), etc, etc. It’s super hard to fight this and really, who wants to?
Managing Bedtime Excitement
My kids are excited and energized by their Dad and I’d be one party pooper to deny them this excitement. But I do. Sort of. The thing is, I VALUE that connection. But I do try to harness it in such a way that isn’t riddled with stimulation, adrenaline and two little monkey’s bouncing off of the walls for the foreseeable future.
The thing about that hour leading up to bedtime is that it has the potential to impact, not just bedtime, but the hours thereafter. If there is one thing that our kids are good at, it’s responding to exciting, energizing and stimulating scenarios. Parents are the emotional, physiological and biological light of a child’s lift and that truly is a gift. The connection and bond that is re-ignited at the end of the day is of critical importance and shouldn’t be ignored or undervalued. I don’t want to downplay that. But like many things in life, I do believe that there is value in moderation.
Tips To Tame Bedtime Excitement
- Connect – Do it in such a way that fosters your bond but downplays stimulation. Age-dependent and ideal activities include reading a book, snuggling, Lego/blocks, a puzzle, playdoh or colouring. The idea is to fill up that attachment bank without sacrificing quiet connection.
- Streamline – But that doesn’t mean rush. The reality is that most parent’s homecoming will coincide with a bedtime that works for their child – it’s the nature of most jobs, it seems. As a result, we can often feel really panicked that bedtime is drawing close and our little one’s inevitably pick up on that. Slow your breathing, quiet your voice and enhance your connection in those final few minutes – again, I can’t emphasize enough how much your little one will pick up on your urgency/calm. The seed that you plant as you connect in those final moments will resonate when you leave.
- Communicate – Let them know when you will next be connecting, whether it be the following morning, evening or days away – it’s not just for them, it’s for you. It may be that your baby is too young to understand or they may be just old enough to appreciate when you’ll next be with them. Regardless articulating that “next” time to connect will see you both through and (importantly) remind you that your next opportunity to connect and to love is closer than you think.
To many, taming bedtime excitement can be a touchy subject and it’s certainly one that comes up frequently in my consultations with families. There is absolutely a way to find a balance and I firmly believe that the end result – a calming, secure and heartfelt connection at the end of the day is worth more, wholesomely for both the parent/caregiver and baby/child, than the complete circus that ensues when we aren’t mindful of our overstimulating impact. Not always an easy pill to swallow and it can be hard to get both parents on board, but SO worthwhile.
Connecting with your child at the end of the day should always be a priority. But like many aspects of parenting, that we sometimes grudgingly concede, it should be tampered down so that our connection is appropriate within the context of the timing of the day and mindful of the hours ahead.