I don’t know about you, but back-to-school time is my favorite time of the year! After a summer of running kids to camps, parks, play dates, amusement parks, vacations, sporting practices, and trying to keep them entertained 24/7, I am beyond done. At this point, I don’t even mind the pile of paperwork I’ll be getting, or the homework I’ll be checking, when the kids do return to school. I just want to get back to my “normal” and be back on schedule! And do you know who else is looking forward to having a schedule again? My kids! They wake up every morning and ask me what’s on the schedule for today. They are used to having their lives be very consistent, and it works well for them too.
Kids of all ages love schedules and routines! Never shy away from creating one for them because you don’t want to be “that mom”. Believe me, they want you to be “that mom”! That Mom knows the exact time they need to be out of the house to catch the bus on time, That Mom knows where their favorite shirt is, That Mom knows what time they need to be at soccer or dance practice, That Mom knows what’s for dinner tonight, That Mom will help them with their homework, and That Mom will make sure they’re in bed on time so they can do it all over again tomorrow! Routines help with their daytime schedule, and they certainly help with their nighttime one. Predictability works well for children and adults of all ages!
But after more than 2 months of chaos, life on the go, and late nights, your normal school year schedule may seem like a distant memory. Now that we’re just weeks away (or even days for some of you) from the start of school, it’s a good time to begin making some changes to your summer schedule in preparation for what’s ahead.
Here are 4 things you can do to ensure your child’s sleep isn’t affected when heading back to school:
- Have a good bedtime routine – If your child likes to watch TV, play on your phone or on a tablet, or play video games before bed, you need to curb when that viewing/playing happens. All electronic devices should be turned off at least 30 minutes prior to bedtime. A good routine might include pajamas, brushing teeth, using the potty, and reading some stories before turning in for the night.
- Get them to bed early – An earlier bedtime is often the answer to many bedtime questions. Many parents believe that if they keep their child up later than usual, then they’ll wake up later in the morning but this isn’t the case! Keeping them up later can cause night terrors, night wakings, restlessness, and then they’ll usually wake up at the same time or earlier the next morning. Stick to a bedtime somewhere between 7-8pm and you should be good. Your child might even need an earlier than normal bedtime once school resumes, thanks to earlier wake-up times and long days of physical and mental activities. And if your child is currently going to bed later than 8pm, then you should think about slowly moving this time up to a more reasonable hour now, so they’re ready when school starts.
- Get them up earlier – On the flipside, if you have a child who’s been enjoying sleeping in late (ie tweens and teens), it’s time to start moving that awake time earlier every few days. Let’s say your child is currently waking up at 9 or 10am. Well, needing to suddenly be up at 6:30 or 7am is going to be quite the culture shock! A week or two before school starts it’s helpful to gradually begin moving bedtime earlier and waking them up earlier in the morning. Yes, they’ll likely grumble, but they will get used to it over that week or two, and it will make the first day back to school more bearable on everyone.
- Allowing a short nap – If you have a younger child going to preschool, kindergarten, or first grade, they are likely to be more tired than usual. They might not be napping anymore normally, but going to school part of or the whole day can be exhausting for them. If they come home and fall asleep on the couch after school, it might be tempting to leave them be. Well, if your child is in preschool or half-day kindergarten, where they’re home by lunch each day, then allowing a small nap would probably be helpful for them to make it through the remainder. It can keep them from going to bed too tired, which can cause night terrors and restlessness. However, if you have an older child who is attending school all day and not getting home until 3 or 4pm, then that’s a different story. A late day nap like that could really throw off your child’s bedtime. You might get a bedtime battle or even a middle of the night wake up where your child is just wide awake. So instead of allowing the late day nap, try to encourage your child to stay up after school, but then put them to bed earlier. In fact, they may need an earlier-than-usual bedtime for a while until their little body adjusts to the long school days.
So go ahead and get in those last few play dates, swim lessons, and let’s not forget about back-to-school shopping, because before long it will all be over. Then we’ll be complaining about the mounds of homework, projects, sports, and other things they’ve got going on during the school year, and we’ll be counting down the days until their first holiday break!