It’s the most wonderful time of the year (when no one wants to go to bed)! If your kids are like most, they’re on vacation from school, eating endless cookies and candy, and eagerly anticipating the gifting portion of the festivities. Even if your little ones are trying extra hard to get their names on the “nice” list, the pure hustle, bustle, and adrenaline of the holidays can make it hard to sleep through the night. Since you’re probably extra tired while doing your best to juggle normal life plus your temp job managing the family holidays, you could use some help. We can’t babysit for you, but we can offer some insights that will make your kids more likely to get in bed – and stay there – even as the season culminates on Christmas Eve. And if these tips don’t work for your family, they’ll at least create some fond memories along the way.
Follow your bedtime routine.
This is the key to success. Kids thrive on consistency, and the holidays tend to devolve into utter chaos. Instead of compromising or making special holiday exceptions, stay firm on your bedtime routine. By keeping the same bedtimes, tooth brushings, and other regular rituals place, you stabilize the framework of each day. Kids find lots of ways to get enjoyment during the Christmas season. It doesn’t need to come in the form of an extra hour to stay up late.
Turn the TV off.
This is vital to the last tip! You’ve probably heard that the blue light from electronic screens messes with our circadian rhythms. It’s no wonder that kids are bouncing off the walls while at the same time being grumpy tired. Wrap up TV time 2 hours before the kids go to bed. Sure, bedtime is at 9 and “Rudolph” doesn’t come on until 8:30. Lucky for you, your kiddos are Internet natives. If you’ve yet to discover your 24-7-365 access to every movie ever made, Christmas is a great time to do it. Open up that Roku or Amazon Fire Stick early and plan your traditional programming on your own terms.
Have a Pajama Jam.
When was the last time your kid ran ahead of you to change into his or her PJs? Bet you thought those moments had passed. Christmas pajamas are key to getting kids into bed at a reasonable hour on the most anticipated night of the year. Make a new tradition where every member of the family picks out their own cute, funny, or downright crazy pajamas to wear on Christmas Eve. That scene where Ralphie opens the bunny suit would have been perfect had the parents moved it to the night before. Those boys would have gone to bed early just so absolutely NO ONE could see them in their special PJs.
Read a Christmas story.
Some of my adult friends’ most treasured holiday memories are of gathering around the family storyteller to hear the reading of a Christmas story. This one kills two birds with one stone, getting kids away from screens while also keeping them quiet and still (for the most part). The Christmas-story tradition is a fantastic gift to pass on to the next generation. It provides a beautiful departure from the fast-paced holiday action, encourages the reading of actual books, creates a role of distinction for a special family member, and can be shared by loved ones of all ages. Why isn’t everyone doing this?
Save the sweets.
It can be very tempting to let little ones share in Santa’s cookies, but the timing couldn’t be worse. Allowing sweets before bed is just asking for trouble. Point out that kids get to have sweets throughout the holiday season, while this is Santa’s only treat. Granted, a plate of cookies from every house in the world is quite the holiday indulgence, but it only happens once a year.
Make hitting the hay its own holiday.
Going to bed the night before Christmas means that the waiting is over. As soon as they fall asleep, the magic moment will be here before they know it. If you can successfully make an event of getting the kids snug in their beds, they might even look forward to it. Make it a moment of gratitude before all the expectation and gift-receiving takes over. Talk about how warm and comfortable their beds are. Be present for a few moments before diving into the frantic assembly of gizmos and gadgets.
If all else fails…
If these reasonable tactics aren’t working for you, you can always outsource. Hiring a babysitter on Christmas Eve is actually a possibility!