A few months ago, we did a three-hour session for a group of 80 people where the facilitator asked, “What is your greatest stress?” The majority of the responses were “my children”.
Ask yourself the same question and if you get the same answer, think about why. A lot of the time, the evening bedtime routine is the biggest problem area for parents. This used to be the case for us too. Evening would come around and I (Angie) was exhausted and not looking forward to it because our two little girls would get hyped up. It became a very stressful time for me for quite a while.
So we looked for answers. We tried and failed to force them to relax when eventually we found something that worked. We’re going to let you in on a little secret: the golden rule of parenting is to take care of your own stress.
When the evening began to draw in, we made sure we let go, created space and had our own evening routine. When we did this, we noticed the girls started to follow.
Even if you don’t have children, this golden rule still stands. Learning to create space for yourself and set yourself up for the evening is a good idea for everybody.
A lightbulb moment
Once we’d figured out what worked, we had the opportunity to teach our children how to really relax. I (Angie) found three key things that were important to creating a relaxing routine in the evening.
The first thing was preparing myself first. The second is setting the environment, and the third is creating routines and rituals within your family that works for everyone.
We are all creatures of habit, and it's no different for kids. So, once you have established a routine - something that's fun and something that you can all do together - then you'll find that the whole household flows into bed smoothly.
So how do we do it? I (Angie) get myself ready for the evening and set the environment using candles because having low light is very important. It’s so important that we changed most of our lamps from regular light bulbs to red light bulbs. I love engaging all five senses so I also use incense and relaxing essential oils in vaporisers all over the house.
I (Shane) am not as fancy as Angie. At first I wasn’t sold on the whole vaporising thing, but, it really does make a difference because it activates the brain. As for the red lights, it is a healing type of light and lets your body know it’s time to rest.
This is something I used to do when I was in the military serving on ships. To darken the ship at night all the lights were turned red because it doesn’t affect your night vision.
On the flip side, blue light wakes you up. More and more people are starting to wake up to the damage artificial light can do to your evening routine and quality of sleep. Light from lamps, TV screens, mobile phones and any other kind of digital device is probably the number one disruptor of sleep as it begins to interrupt your hormonal system. This was a big revelation to us.
This took us years to find out, but we wish we knew sooner. Because we run our business at home, we would often work into the evening, which is the worst thing you can do. We noticed it started to affect our children because if we were working, they were likely watching something or in front of some kind of screen somewhere.
We always talk about our circadian rhythm because it’s incredibly important, and we have seen the proof in the pudding with our kids.
Create your own routine
The only way around it that we’ve found is to organise our life and our time to make sure we get most of the important tasks ticked off during daylight hours. It’s doable, even with a busy life like ours. By taking the time and making the effort to do that, our house is so much more peaceful.
I (Angie) would say we've aligned our values, meaning we have put our own health, wellness, and sanity ahead of the work that needs to be done. We are now really good at getting stuff done, in certain time frames, so we can spend time with our family.
The biggest thing we’ve found from this is that when we get into gear, the kids follow. We’ve established our own routines and rituals. Now, the girls know they've got their ‘six B's of bedtime’ - something all our babysitters are taught. They are bathing, brushing (teeth and hair), bathroom, breathing, books, bed.
For the breathing routine we do three sighs and one yawn, which is a very simple yet powerful technique. It’s especially important for me as a mother to do this to manage my own energy because I’m often exhausted. Seeing me do that to relax helped my girls learn to do the same.
Then we make sure to read books to each other. The more they follow this routine every evening, the more they know what to do to kick it off.
Sleep is sacred
Modern science is now telling us that your sleep ritual, or rituals around sleep, should be sacred. We're teaching the girls now not only to create their own ritual, but to have something that they can carry on and evolve as they get older.
But the number one struggle for most people is knowing how to relax properly before sleep. You might not realise this, but eating your dinner meal before the sun goes down is hugely important. It gives the body an opportunity to be finished with food for the day, and therefore to go into its cleaning and rejuvenation cycle in the evening.
So try to find a framework that works for you and your lifestyle and test some of the ways we get ready for bed with your family. Again, if you don’t have children, it doesn’t matter. Establishing some kind of evening routine helps everyone of all ages gently glide into bed, ready for a quality night’s sleep.
We are just lucky we have children; they are our greatest teachers and we’ve learned a lot from them.