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Exploring Bedtime Routines and Other Rituals: An Introduction

This fall we will be focusing our attention on bedtime routines and other rituals. Over the summer we posted a survey that many of you took time to answer for us. Those answers will be a significant portion of some of these posts. The first question on the survey invited respondents to rate the importance of a bedtime routine in their family, on a scale of 1 (having no routine at all) to 10 (using the same routine every night). An overwhelming majority (more than 82%) rated routine at bedtime as having an importance level of 7 or higher. We were curious to see if the general public, beyond our Orthodox Christian Parenting community, considers a regular bedtime as truly important or not. We also wondered whether or not it is important to do the same sequence of events in preparing for bedtime every night. We did a little research, and here is what we found:

It seems that a regular bedtime, in and of itself, is of great benefit to children. National Public Radio's "Morning Edition" featured a report (1) several years ago about the importance of a regular bedtime. The report covered a British survey of 10,000 children studied at ages 3, 5, and 7, assessing the effect that having a regular bedtime had on each child's daytime behaviors. They took into account differences like family size, income, whether or not the child had breakfast, etc., and still came to the same conclusion across the board: the children with irregular bedtimes had a much more difficult time managing themselves during the day. "If you change their bedtimes, say, 7 o'clock one night, 9 o'clock, the next, 8 o'clock the next, 10 o'clock the next, if we do too much of that switching, we end up inducing this kind of jet-lag effect, which makes it really, really difficult to regulate behavior." said researcher Yvonne Kelly from University College. The study found that children with irregular bedtime were more likely to act out, be hyperactive, or be withdrawn than their regular-bedtime counterparts.

And what about having a routine at bedtime? Is it necessary to follow a certain schedule every night, or does it not matter as long as everyone ends up in bed with clean teeth? Dr. Marie Hartwell-Walker answers this question in her article "The Value of a Child's Bedtime Routine," posted on PsychCentral.com: "Repetition and structure help children feel safe. Bedtime declares that the day is over. When you are loving and firm about when it is time for bed, you are building your children's confidence in their world. Repetition for young children is comforting — ever wonder why they want the same story over and over? The repetition of the getting ready for bed routine (getting into pajamas, brushing teeth, a drink of water, a story, a hug, goodnight) lets your child know what to expect and helps him or her feel secure." (2) So while a bedtime routine may not be imperative (even without one, they will still eventually fall asleep!), it seems that a routine at bedtime is more beneficial to a child than having none.

Check back in the weeks to come to find some ideas that could answer questions like these: How do Orthodox Christian parents in today's world guide their children in the Faith at the end of a crazy busy day? What routines and rituals can families do to calm their bodies and their minds so that they can rest? What stories, books, songs, and prayers are helpful? We value your input, so please add your own ideas in comments along the way. If you do so, we can all benefit from your family's experience! And once again, thank you to all who filled out the survey. We look forward to sharing what you are doing with the rest of the community! Find us on Facebook at www.facebook.com/orthodoxchristianparenting and Wordpress at orthodoxchristianparenting.wordpress.com.


Sources:

(1) "Why a Regular Bedtime is Important for Children," NPR's "Morning Edition," Dec. 16, 2013, found here: www.npr.org/2013/12/16/251462015/why-a-regular-bedtime-is-important-for-children

(2) "The Value of a Child's Bedtime Routine," by Dr. Marie Hartwell-Walker, PsychCentral.com, May 17, 2016, found here: psychcentral.com/lib/the-value-of-a-childs-bedtime-routine


  • "Regardless of age, regular schedules and bedtime rituals help us get the sleep we need and to function at peak levels. When it comes to children, this is especially true. Establishing and maintaining good sleep habits helps your child fall asleep, stay asleep, and wake up rested and refreshed." Read this and more about bedtime routines here.
  • "Enforcing a bedtime can seem impossible at times, but it is well worth it. Doing so makes things easier when it's time for the kids to get up in the morning, it enhances their performance at school, and it keeps them healthy. It's never too late to start a soothing bedtime routine that will help your child get the rest she needs." Read this article on the importance of bedtime and sleep, including suggestions for how much sleep children of different ages need.
  • "Establishing a bedtime routine helps you create an environment and situation conducive to sleep for your child. Before your child is able to express him or herself verbally, it's creating signals for the conscious and subconscious that now is the time to settle down... Used consistently, routines help children (and you) set expectations and get into rest mode more quickly." Find ideas for setting bedtime routines in this article.
  • Parents with babies who are looking for ideas of how to establish a bedtime routine may benefit from watching this short video.
  • "Scientists found that as children switched from having an irregular bedtime to a regular bedtime their behaviors improved. Hope dawns anew with each morning, so remember to set aside that nightly time to read, sing, pray, share highs and lows, or whatever lovely routine you and your kids have established together." Read this article, complete with five suggestions of things to do (or not to do) as part of your children's bedtime routine.