Summer Bedtimes: How to avoid Back-to School Headaches
It's the last month ... or some places, the last week of summer. The beach, the pool, the vacation, or just the time in the yard. Some young kids are still up at 10 or 11.
It's true, summer brings some of life's best memories. It's so tempting to let them stay up late and enjoy the freedom. And enjoy yours, too!
I've seen 29 sleepy back-to-school seasons since becoming a psychologist.
So here are some thoughts about summer bedtimes. They're from your point of view and, as always, that of the young child.
Pleasure now, pain later
Later and lax bedtime surely bring you a lot of benefits. More relaxed evenings, fewer battles. Plus the thought "Let 'em be kids!" Right? And our course, they wanna stay up.
But late bedtimes can creep up to back-to-school time. Then you have to change.
When bedtime is cut back suddenly, you get (at least) three kinds of blow-back:
- evening protests
- morning crankiness
- poorer listening
Sudden "180" shifts in schedule from flexible to structured brings strain in every area of parenting.
Sudden shift = harder transitions.
From their perspective, abrupt changes in sleep routines is hard on kids' body clocks. It's just like jetlag. I see it every year.
Even if "its only preschool / kindergarten / 1st grade ...". School is your child's job, and it's hard to start a new job with jetlag.
No matter their grade, kids expend enormous physical, mental and emotional energy at school. New room, new teacher, new expectations and work for 6 hours.
It is hard to learn and adapt and be a "friendly friend" when your body clock is off.
Here are a few ideas to roll back the clock.
Please don't get the idea that I think this is easy! I know it's not.
Bedtimes can be the hardest time of the day! And many families struggle with sleep on a nightly basis. That's a topic for another time.
But for now, a few ideas to avoid the sudden shift:
- Start shifting about 2 weeks ahead. What if you're on vacation? Get them to bed an hour earlier than you really want to. That hour will save a lot of havoc.
- Aim for 5-10 minutes earlier per night. In a week, bedtime could (in theory, LOL!) be a half-hour earlier.
- Serve sleep-inducing snacks before bed: almonds or walnuts, turkey slices, kiwi, cow or soy milk (without the sugary cookies).
- Start to shift the time without focusing on school. For school-averse kids, it's just too stressful.
- Add something new to the bedtime routine: a new book or nightlight, pillow.
It's a hard thing ... but one of the kindest things you can do for your child's brain. And your back-to-school sanity.
See you next week!
And remember ... Looking through your child's eyes changes everything.
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