Special needs children have their own set of issues when it comes to bedtime. It has been a struggle to get our son to sleep ever since he could crawl out of his crib. Our first vacation without a pack n play was a nightmare when it was time for bed. He has pretty much learned to put himself to sleep now minus the crib, but he has yet to actually sleep in his toddler bed. It’s been a year now and he still sleeps on the floor with his pillow and Snoopy dog by the gate. Thank goodness we have the gate! I would be terrified if he could roam around the whole house at night.
Routine/ritual is very important for children and it is even more important for special needs children. They need to have a set time for bedtime and bedtime rituals. In our family, it starts after dinner with a bath. After his bath, we clean up the living room, get him in his pjs, brush teeth, say goodnight to either daddy or mommy, and then head to the bedroom. We say our prayers and then we stay with him for a few minutes talking with him. We let him know what we are going to do tomorrow and that we are out in the living room if he needs us. He whimpers a little, but he is usually so tired that he lays down pretty quickly.
Our evening routine seems to calm him down at some point. I can’t say that it is all a bed of roses every night because he’s three and that’s just silly. But I do know that he is quite aware whenever we deviate from our routine and he becomes very upset. Sometimes he is inconsolable if we come back too late for a bath and then has a meltdown. He likes his routine and he likes it because it makes him feel safe.
No matter what our children may tell us, they like routine and some sense of normalcy. It is hard for a child if every day is different and there isn’t that routine to help them feel safe. Children who don’t have a routine tend to lash out and have issues with feeling safe. These children often go through life having major issues with trusting people. It seems trivial that the lack of a routine would cause these issues, but children are delicate and are learning from their surroundings. It’s part of the growing process to feel safe at home.
Whatever you choose as your nightly ritual, your child will learn to live by it and will treasure the time with you. I know our son loves the little moments we have each evening. It’s a perfect ending to my day.