It can be a parent’s worst nightmare: exhausted from running around the shops, panic buying the last of the Christmas food shop (just in case the Mother In Law decides to pop in and you need to make sure you’ve got her favourite treat), and wrapping a pile of presents that looks, despite your efforts to scale down this year, bigger than ever – at Christmas, all you want is a bit of peace and quiet.
But overexcited with the thought of Santa coming down the chimney and opening their stack of gifts, children rarely get to sleep well on Christmas Eve. So what can you do to make this Christmas a little more relaxed? Well, luckily, there’s plenty.
The first thing to do is to establish a routine. If you’ve not got a bedtime routine in place for your kids, do it now. The best way to get your kids tucked up in bed without a fuss is to have a routine in place that they can follow every night. This could be giving your child a hot drink (which will make them sleepy), then having them brush their teeth and use the toilet. You can then get them into their beds, read them a gentle story or two, and let them cuddle up with their favourite toy. You could also try introducing a night time ‘phrase’ or saying that signals to the child that it’s time to get ready for bed; if used repeatedly, this will help get your child into that routine, which will become important when your child is excited – especially true at Christmas.
An addition to the usual bed time routine will be the treats left for Father Christmas by the fire. Leaving this exercise to just before your child’s bedtime will also help getting them off to bed.
There’s also lots of different things that may overstimulate your child before bedtime on Christmas Eve, but there are actions you can take to counteract these. Avoid giving your child too many sugary sweets or chocolate that might be lying around the house, or hanging from the tree. You should also avoid too much television before they head up to their bedrooms, as the Christmas adverts and programmes will leave them restless. You could try a calm Christmas DVD, like The Snowman, or even better play a relaxing game like a jigsaw or dominoes.
If your child does get out of bed (hopefully not whilst you’re sneaking the presents under the tree!), be sure to repeat the bed time phrase you’ve introduced and calmly take your child back to their bedroom. Don’t be tempted to pander to their excitement, and avoid threats like ‘Father Christmas won’t come’ as you might upset them, which will make things more difficult.
Finally, whilst it might be tempting to turn the heating right up to beat the winter weather, it’s actually better to keep the house at a neutral temperature, to avoid your children over heating when trying to get to sleep.
Do you have any tricks you use to help your kids get to sleep on Christmas Eve?