We have always had a routine for bedtime and we are very strict about it - no 'special' late nights allowed. We travel enough to deal with jetlag on a regular basis and know what our kids are like without enough sleep - it is no fun for anyone.
They have always been early to bed, early to rise - often asleep by 6:30pm and up by 6:30 am. But with going to local school the days end later and this is no longer possible. We don't get home until 6pm, and there is dinner, English homework, shower, then in bed by 7:00 reading to them, them reading alone, then listening to audio stories by Tales2Go, then more cuddling while they fall sleep around 8pm. I wish it was earlier!!
My son is 7.5 and my daughter 6.5 years old, and they have very different inner body clocks.
My son is up early and fresh and ready to go, and falls asleep easily.
My daughter has a terrible time falling to sleep and hates waking up early.
Both of them have a 'window' and if we miss it then bedtime is messy and I get very frustrated. Like any other parent, I want some 'me time' to wind down before I sleep, and occasionally even *gasp* some time with my ever patient hubby - I need them to go to sleep during my 'window', so I can eventually go to sleep and have the energy to do it all again tomorrow!
In the past, we have had to give magnesium to my son because he sometimes grinds his teeth - so when he does that, we give them both that before bedtime and it does go smoother. I should really do this every evening, but I don't... Magnesium helps to relax muscles and for some reason grinding teeth can be a sign of magnesium deficiency.
Recently though, I wanted to help them both relax more before sleep, and my daughter especially loves what we do. I made up a mini relaxing meditation (which is ironic if you knew how total type A, high strung I am hahaha)
After the above mentioned bedtime routine, we turn off Tales2Go (being sure to bookmark the long stories), and do this:
Lay down on our backs in bed (I am with one of the kids)
Breath in and out slowly 5 times, in through the nose, out through the mouth
Tighten each part of the body and relax it one by one, very slowly, inhaling on the tightening, exhaling on the relaxing
Toes, legs, bottom, stomach, hands, arms, neck and shoulders, head and face
Then the whole body
Then we do another 10 breaths really slowly and deeply as above
By the end of this, my daughter is really relaxed and almost asleep... she sometimes asks me to gently stroke her forehead too.
I could not believe that this worked as I tried it on a whim one night, and now they ask for it!
It's not magic, but it helps.... now if I could only be as disciplined as to do this for myself!
http://www.meditationoasis.com/ - free podcasts on iTunes
http://smilingmind.com.au/ - nice free app on iTunes, very age appropriate
http://www.getsomeheadspace.com/ - free trial no the app on iTunes