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THE QUESTION: Our kids, aged 6, 4 and 2.5, have been counting down the days till Christmas since Halloween. They are, shall we say, "rather spirited" children and bedtime is an ongoing struggle. How can we get them dreaming of sugar plums?

THE ANSWER: Plan an outdoor event the afternoon of Christmas Eve. If you are too busy, enlist help from a friend who could take her kids and yours for some tobogganing, skating or biking fun. The goal is simple: Tire them out. If you go out for Christmas Eve, change them into their pyjamas before you drive home and then carry them into the house. When you leave milk out for Santa, heat up some for the children and put them to bed in a cool, dark room, with a cozy blanket and a warm hot water bottle. Don't tell them Santa won't come if they are awake – this can produce anxiety. Provide soothing music or a white noise machine as a focus while waiting for sleep to come. And if they can't settle, lie down with them until they drift off. (It's only one night!) If all else fails, pour yourself a stiff rum and eggnog and go to bed early to prep for cranky children in the morning.

Judy Arnall is the author of Plugged-In Parenting and the mother of five.

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