6. Encourage sweet dreams
If your child tends to have troubling dreams and therefore tries to stall at bedtime, borrow a tradition from Native Americans, who often wove dream catchers -- decorated webs of thread that they'd hang above their beds -- to trap any incoming nightmares. You can buy one from a craft store or make your own with a bit of netting and some decorations on a cardboard frame, says Barbara Biziou, author of The Joy of Family Rituals: Recipes for Everyday Living (St. Martin's Press). Hang it where your child can see it when she's in bed. As she settles under the covers, brush your hand across the catcher, saying, "Let's sweep all bad dreams into it; only good ones tonight." You can also try exchanging stories that begin: "The wonderful dream I'm going to dream tonight is..."
7. Keep a journal jointly
Want to find out more details about your kid's daily life? Try this tactic from Natalie Chet of Indianapolis and her 9-year-old daughter, Laura: Buy a journal, and curl up together every night to record the day's events and thoughts or just to doodle a bit. The parent takes the left-hand page, the child gets the right-hand one, and they then share the results. "It's a fun way to sit together, plus it gives us a special time of day to peek into each other's lives in a bit more depth," says Chet.
8. E-mail out-of-towners
If you have a computer at home, you probably know how difficult it can be to get a child to log off at night. Offer this quick compromise: Create a buddy list of grandparents or other relatives and, before shutting down the PC, have your kid send them a quick "I love you" note or a funny good-night wish ("Hope you dream of doughnuts and dachshunds" is how one 8-year-old does it).