Raise your hand if you’re still having to “gently” pull your screaming and groggy child out of bed so they can get dressed and make it to school on time. Wow; that’s a lot of hands. For many parents, the struggle is real, especially during the first couple of weeks of the school year when our kiddos are still used to lazy summer days of staying up late and sleeping in.
Getting up early for school is difficult for any kid or parent, and while you probably should have introduced a new sleep routine a week or so before school started, all is not lost. Many of the same tips still apply now that school has started.
Here are a few you can try right now to give your kids the rest they need and make those mornings a tad easier.
Know how much sleep they need
The first step in determining when your child should go to bed is determining how much sleep they need. The National Sleep Foundation recommends different hours for different age groups. For example, teenagers need roughly 8-10 hours of sleep versus a preschooler, who needs 10-13 hours of quality sleep.
Once you know how much sleep your child needs, you may be thinking the answer to making up ground is to enforce a ridiculously early bedtime right off the bat. On the contrary, a solid tip is to work them into the new pattern gradually – start with moving the time up by 20 or 30 minutes, then push it up 45 minutes to an hour.
Move everything else up, too
Another way to help get the kids into bed earlier once school has started is to move all the busy household chores up an hour or so. For example, have them do their homework as soon as they get home from school, so it’s out of the way, then try having dinner as a family at 5:30 instead of 6:30 p.m. You can also adjust your own bedtime, so your child realizes it’s time for everyone to go to bed. This creates a calmer mood throughout the house as bedtime approaches.
Cut out caffeine
As we all know, caffeine can even make grownups jumpy and wide awake. So you can imagine that allowing your child to drink soda at dinner may be counterproductive if you’re trying to get them to go to bed earlier. Choose water instead.
Limit electronic screen time
Our kids are used to watching TV, playing video games, or talking to friends on their phones. This extra screen time, especially right before bedtime, makes it harder for them to fall asleep. Eliminate screen time at least an hour before their new bedtime, or better yet, immediately after dinner.
Get into a routine
Creating a routine that your child can count on every night will help them wind down and mentally prepare for bed. A perfect example for younger kids is having them take a bath, brush their teeth, get their pajamas on, and read a book. You can even have fun with this and create a bedtime chart, complete with pictures and “good behavior stars.” For older kids, you can replace some of these steps by just sitting with them in their room and let them talk about their day.
Don’t let them nap after school
Try to avoid allowing your child to take a nap after school, as it will only make going to bed later that much more difficult. You can avoid the midday snooze by keeping them active with sports, putting a priority on getting their homework done, or even putting them to work with a few chores around the house.
What tips do you have to make getting your child back on a sleep schedule less stressful? Share them with us on our Facebook page. We’d also love to see your first day of school pictures.