“The days are long and the years are short.” Some days, we can all agree, seem nearly endless. To bring some lightness into the end-of-day exhaustion, it’s important to create a routine that calms you and your family down from the activities and stress of the day. Here are suggestions for each stage; create your own routine, repeat it each night, and you’ll find that evenings will become the sweetest part of your day.

Babies. Flip through any baby book, and you’ll read about the importance of creating a bedtime routine to help your sweet little bundle drift off into dreamland. Starting at this age will set your child up for a sleep rhythm that will serve them throughout childhood. A bath with a subtle scent, (keeping in mind your baby’s sensitive skin), dressing them in the same location, with soft lighting, and accompanied by your favorite lullaby is often all that is needed to set a soothing tone.

School age children. The evening routine can be an important way for your child to learn how to calm themselves down. They probably had big adventures, and perhaps some misadventures, and settling down with a nightly rhythm gives them the chance to ease their minds as well as their bodies. You might include some time for conversation, a chance to talk about what is on their mind, wrapping it up with three things they are grateful for. Ending the evening with some reading is a sweet habit to instill in young children.

Moms and Dads. For parents, developing a bedtime routine that specifically addresses calming the nervous system is essential for avoiding burnout. It does not have to be long or complicated, but it’s great to include time to stretch and unwind the body, take deep belly breaths focusing on a long, slow exhale, and listen to soothing music or nature sounds. Resist the urge to catch up on the news or binge-watch your favorite show. The point is to slow down your body and your mind.

For all ages, start with one or two parts of a routine, and add on from there. The goal is not to create more stress with a complicated program. Make this a time of day for slowing down and savoring the moment.-KK