This is a guest post from Melissa P., a fellow police wife, solo parent and pediatric sleep consultant.
Solo parenting at bedtime, during day shifts, evening shifts, overnight shifts, on call shifts…it’s all hard.
Doing the bedtime routine as solo parents can feel like the hardest part of the day. It’s tough! You’ve already had an exhausting day of work outside the home, or you’ve been with the kids all day and you just need a break. I’m with you on that!
But your spouse’s demanding and often unpredictable schedule isn’t going anywhere so let’s focus on what you CAN control and prepare you for making solo parenting at bedtime as easy for you as possible.
Tips for Solo Parents at Bedtime:
Streamline Your Evenings
I know you are not really a “solo parent” but as a police wife you are solo a lot of the time, so it really helps to have routines in place that make those solo evenings a whole lot easier. Create a routine that is efficient and one that you feel confident executing on your own.
Streamline your evenings with a solid routine, meal plan, and early bedtimes so you can get things done or have time for yourself after the kids are in bed.
Meal planning is probably the most important part of streamlining your evening because it makes it easier to get kids to bed on time. Plan meals ahead of time that are easy to cook (and clean up) while wrangling kids. Or cook in large batches that will serve you for a few nights (and maybe even lunches too).
When your officer is home, practice this streamlined process as well. You never know when a call out will happen or when you’ll get that dreaded last minute “I’ll be late” text. If you prepare to do things solo then there is less disappointment, and if your officer is able to be home for the evening routine, then it’s a bonus.
I used to get so disappointed when the phone rang and my husband needed to run out the door or that last minute text came in saying he’d be late…again. The mindset shift of planning to do things solo instead of counting on him to have a day off or end shift “on time” (whatever “on time” even means), has helped me tremendously. No one quite gets this, like the spouse of a first responder!
Establish a Strong Foundation of Sleep for Your Kids
If your kids are not sleeping well, then it makes it so much more difficult heading into night. This is tough on any night, let alone a night when you are solo parenting. Establishing a strong foundation of sleep will make it SO much easier for you.
Proper schedule, room environment, and independent sleep skills makes all the difference for all of you as you head into another bedtime (and overnight) of solo parenting. Need help with this? Grab my free Guide to Sleeping Through the Night where I take you through the steps for setting the foundation for sleeping through the night for years to come.
Create a Bedtime Routine
Have a solid bedtime routine established for your kids. The exact same activities, in the exact same order, in the same place every night. The predictability of a solid routine is key in communicating to your child that sleep in coming next. With consistency the routine will soon become second nature for your child. This helps significantly to reduce any bedtime battles (meltdowns, prolonging the routine, pushing boundaries) that you may be experiencing.
YOU are in control of the bedtime routine, not the kids. Having a solid routine and boundaries in place will make solo parenting at bedtime much more manageable and way less daunting for you.Download my free Bedtime Routine Chart to help involve your kids in the bedtime while keeping them on task. It’s a win-win!
Set an Early Bedtime
Time bedtime age appropriately (see chart below). If you are putting your kids to bed too late, it doesn’t matter what your routine is…overtiredness will trump a good routine. Overtiredness causes hyperactivity, meltdowns, difficulty falling asleep and STAYING asleep.
Kids in general are naturally early risers so they will wake early no matter how late you put them to bed. An earlier bedtime helps prevent overtiredness. As a bonus, it also gives you more time in the evening to do what YOU want to do. Another win-win for solo parents!
And yes…even during the summer months you will want to utilize an early bedtime as much as you can. Every now and then is fine but your child’s sleep needs don’t change just because the sun is out longer.
|4 Months – 5 Years||6-8pm|
Is your child’s sleep environment promoting quality sleep?
Here are the two main things you need to create the ideal sleep environment:
· Blackout – you are married to a shift worker; I know you know the importance of blackout. The human brain is designed to sleep in the dark. Our brains need darkness in order to naturally produce melatonin (sleep hormone that helps us fall asleep and STAY asleep).
· White Noise – a sound machine playing continuously throughout the night will help block out any environmental noise…you know, like your officer going to or coming home from work at all hours of the night.
Avoid The 3 S’s Before Bedtime
For at least the last hour before bedtime, avoid:
· Screens: The blue light from screens interferes with your child’s ability to produce melatonin. Depending what they are watching or playing on the screens, it can also cause your child to have difficulty winding down before sleep
· Stress: This is a particularly important one for law enforcement families. If your child is starting to experience anxiety about their police parent’s job, then you will want to work through those anxieties during the day and keep the conversations positive for the last few hours before bedtime. But this applies to any type of stress trigger for your child – not just stress related to their parent’s job.
· Sugar: Candies, juice, and sweets. Sugar gives a surge in energy which is not what we want before bed. If a bedtime snack is necessary, some alternatives that are good would be: banana, cherries, avocado, or almonds.
Things to Consider for Goodnight Calls With Your Officer
If your family does FaceTime or phone calls goodnight with their police parent before bed, I would caution a couple things around this.
If at all possible, do it closer to dinner. FaceTiming their police parent can be exciting which makes it harder to wind down if it’s too close to bedtime. The screen light is also inhibiting the natural production of melatonin which is necessary for going to sleep.
You want your child’s bedtime routine to be CONSISTENT. A phone call from their police parent before bed is not something that can be guaranteed so I would not recommend creating the expectation that this phone call is a guarantee each night. My husband always says, “I don’t make promises” because he really can’t. We live our life by this because it reduces the risk of disappointment. Policing, as you know, is unpredictable. It should not be expected of your officer, or for your child that a goodnight call is an every evening thing. If it happens great, but if not then that’s okay too.
Tip for Solo Parents: Placing a photo of your officer next to your child’s bed can help ease separation anxiety at bedtime and during the night. On nights when a goodnight FaceTime or phone call is not possible, your child can say goodnight to the photo instead.
Don’t Rush Bedtime
I know that it’s already been a hectic day and you are tired, and you just can’t wait for some much needed you-time. It’s okay if you feel this way even on days when your officer is home (I do too), but it’s definitely heightened when you are solo parenting at bedtime.
However, the bedtime routine is an important part of your child’s day. Keep it calm and consistent every night. It’s the last opportunity for some emotional fulfillment before heading off to sleep and this helps your child feel safe and secure going into the night.
Solo Parenting at Bedtime with Multiple Children
Here are some tips for solo parents that have multiple children to put to bed.
Do Bedtime Activities Together
Each child chooses a book that you all read together. However, the last activity for each child should be in their own room – something as simple as a lullaby or asking what their favourite part of the day was as you tuck them in (I love hearing my toddler’s answers).When two or more kids have the same bed time there will likely be about a five-minute difference between each kid going into their bed. In this scenario, I like to prioritize youngest to oldest. Younger babies and children are more sensitive to becoming overtired so five minutes can make a bigger difference for them.
How to Handle Different Bed Times
If your kids have different bed times (refer to the chart above to determine if they really NEED different bedtimes). Have something quiet the other child(ren) can do while you do the first bedtime. Something independent and quiet like colouring, puzzles, blocks, meditation. If your child struggles with independent activities, work on practicing quiet time during the day.
You do not need to always do everything yourself. It is okay to expect your children to do things for themselves and for their siblings. This of course gets easier as your kids get older and are more capable of doing things on their own and helping with younger siblings.
Here are some things you may consider having your kids help with to make solo parenting at bedtime smoother:
- Put their own dishes in the dishwasher
- Put their own pajamas on
- Brush a siblings hair
- Help a younger sibling get their pajamas on
Of course this isn’t going to happen overnight but with practice and consistency, all these things will become second nature.
Do This Consistently as Solo Parents
While it may be nice to divide and conquer on the nights your officer is home, having consistency in the bedtime routine (same place, same activities, same order) is where the magic lies. If the routine changes every other night, or every other week, that’s when we start to see some of those bedtime battles. And nobody wants those at the end of an already tiring day. Grab my free bedtime routine chart to help you keep bedtime consistent whether you are solo or not.
Now, this isn’t to say that YOU need to always do bedtime, even when your officer is home. Have your spouse do bedtime when they are home in the evenings – it’s a special bonding time that they deserve as well!
No matter how you slice solo parenting at bedtime, it’s hard. As LEO spouses we learn independence early on and find gratitude in the little things – like someone helping with the dishes in the evening. Am I right?
You CAN do bedtime as solo parents, and it does not need to feel like a dreaded task. Stick to your routines and hold your boundaries with your kids (remember YOU are in control of the bedtime, not the other way around). And when your officer is home to help (or to take their turn doing it solo), it certainly makes it that much easier on you – cherish those evenings – they’ll get you through the tough one!If you need help establishing routines and independent sleep skills for your littles so you can feel confident doing solo parenting at bedtime, I would love to help you with that. I welcome you to book your free child sleep evaluation call with me so we can chat about how I can help your family get the sleep you all need and deserve.
About the author:
Melissa is a police wife, toddler mom, and the certified pediatric sleep consultant and founder of Lavender Littles Sleep Consulting. After overcoming sleep struggles with her own daughter, Melissa became passionate about helping other families and solo parents get the sleep they need and deserve. She wants parents to know that sleep deprivation does not need to be a part of parenthood and that there are solutions and support available. When Melissa isn’t talking about sleep, she enjoys scrapbooking and traveling with her family.
Connect with Melissa:
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