Hi Sharon,

Do you have any tips for how I can get my kids to go to bed at a reasonable time? They’re 9 and 11, and often they stay up later than me. I fall asleep around 10 – 10:30 (I get up every day at 6:00) and I’m too tired to argue with them when they tell me they’re not tired yet or that they have homework to complete. I’m a divorced working mother, so there is no back up from a partner. Any advice would be appreciated.

Astoria, Queens

Dear Joanne,

Congratulations for handling as much as you do. As much as children can resist parents, I agree that getting children to sleep at a reasonable time is a good goal. A good night’s sleep is a vital part of health and well-being for people at any age. As much as children fight parental guidelines about sleep and other issues it is important and ultimately reassuring to have some limitations in place. In most families setting up these guidelines takes a fair amount of thought and effort.

Here are some tips that might help you out.

Try having a family meeting on a weekend when things are relatively stress free (even though stress-free time is hard to find). Begin by talking about your concerns about nighttime routines and then listen to what your children have to say about the problem. (Passing out some special food at the meeting can help everyone hang in there a bit longer). If your children are willing to talk it might be possible to brainstorm a set of guidelines that can help. You will probably need to set a time when in and outgoing phone calls should stop, a time when the TV needs to be off and a time when all lights need to be out. If you decide that there may be a set of circumstances that require one or both of them to stay up later (a special report due etc.) than you set a time for that to end as well. If they refuse to talk about the topic set down a set of rules anyway. Sometimes the first few days of new rules are the hardest (you will probably have to lose some sleep while you check to see that your children are taking them seriously), but once they are in place things can get easier. If your children get to talk about the rules before they begin it can help the transition be easier.

2) Pressures from homework can take a serious toll on bedtime routines. As I have mentioned in previous articles, relaxed, loving time between parents and children is essential to the development of all young ones. Parents who work full time are often justifiably concerned when the few hours they have to spend with their children each day are used up negotiating the demands of homework (often a tension filled task). If at all possible try to think of ways to help your children get most of their homework done before you get home. Sometimes there are after school programs that help children do their homework. It might also be possible to ask a neighbor or a babysitter to help get some of the work out of the way. One parent I know asks a teenager who lives on her block to help her child get homework done.. She reports that it is easier for her child to accept help from another young person than it ever was at home. Looking for this kind of after school support can take time but it is well worth the effort. 3) Spending quality time talking and playing with your children is also an important part of getting them ready for bed. TV and videos although relaxing do not help children feel how tired they really are. Try and set limits for the amount of time they are on and when they are on join in. Play video games with your children (it’s OK you’re really bad at it) learn about their TV shows and also try “old fashioned” cookie baking or board games to have fun together. Even fifteen minutes of time together can make it easier to relax and then talk through difficult topics like bedtime routines.

I admire your courage as you tackle the hard work of single parenting. I hope you and your children enjoy some good sound sleep in the weeks ahead.