As we enter into the month of August, we start get ready to do two things: mourn the impending end of summer and get ready for the upcoming school year. Of course I’m talking about the kids in this scenario. Most parents I know are practically celebrating when August rolls around. This means that the kids are off to school for the day, learning new things, making new friends, and the house stays relatively intact.
One of the biggest challenges in getting ready for school is getting ready for a new schedule. It is not uncommon for parents to let bedtimes slide or push the time that kids go to bed back later during the summer time. With vacations, BBQs, outdoor activities happening later in the day due to the longer daytime hours, many families find it easier to simply push bedtime back.
What this does though is make it a bit of a challenge for families looking to get their kids back on schedule before school starts. Try to adjust them too quickly and you’re dealing with kids who are tired and cranky when school starts. Here are five tips to help make the transition easier so that by the time school starts, your kids are well adjusted, well rested, and ready to face the new school year head on.
1.Give It Time
Don’t wait until a week before school starts to start working on getting your child adjusted to the new schedule and hours. You want to give your child ample time to slowly adjust to the new schedule. Trying to shave off hours and impose a new bedtime or wake-up time in a span of a few days has the same effect of jet lag in most travelers. They’re more likely to be tired, cranky, unfocused, and easily overwhelmed. This hard enough to deal with as an adult, but for a child who may be nervous about the new school year, this creates additional stress on their minds and bodies that could be avoided if they were given more time to adjust to a new sleep schedule. Instead, start adjusting their schedule at least two weeks before the start of school, three weeks if your child is one that is slow to adapt to change. By giving them a good amount of time to adapt to a new schedule, you allow your child to receive a more natural and healthier introduction to their new schedule and still get the sleep that their bodies require.
When you figure out when you’re going to adjust their schedule, do it in small increments. Start adjusting their bedtimes in 15 minutes increments and slowly work your way to the new bedtime. So if you’ve been letting your child stay up until 9:00, and their bedtime during the school months is 8:00, then start with an 8:45 bedtime for a few days, then move to 8:30 for a few days, then 8:15, and then 8:00. Start small and move slowly will make it so your child’s body has time to adjust to the new demands and can do so in a manner that it optimal for your child.
3.Clear the Schedule
Though it can be very tempting to pack in the last few days of summer with fun outings and trips, resist doing so. When you start adjusting your child’s sleep schedule, you want to make sure that you don’t overwhelm your child and accidentally create a chaotic transition to the school schedule. Make sure that you are home in time to do your child’s bedtime routine and have them in bed at the new time. Keep your weekends simple and stay closer to home the last few weeks. If your child is slow to adjust to the new schedule or is behaving like they are overtired, then stay home that evening and put them to bed earlier. Give them ample time to rest and relax while their bodies and mind recharge and realign itself with the new bedtime and sleep schedule.
4.Consistency is Key
Staying consistent throughout the transition is one of the best ways to help your child adapt to their new bedtime. It can be easy to give in and let them stay up to their usual summer bedtime once or twice in the middle of the transition, but by doing so, you create a harsher demand on their bodies to adjust and you can end up creating a larger headache for you and bigger battles for your child at bedtime, as overtiredness and confusion is apt to bring. Set forth your expectations, follow through, and be consistent to the very end. Your child will do much better knowing that their world is set in routine and structure as the school year looms ahead.
5.Keeping the Bedtime the Same All Year Long
If you are a parent that keeps their child’s bedtime the same, regardless of holidays, summer vacations, and weekends, then you don’t have to worry about adjusting your child’s sleep schedule too much before the start of the school year. Just make sure that your child’s sleep schedule is compatible with the start time of school and that they are set up to get 10-12 hours of sleep overnight. So if your child has to be awake by 6:30 to catch the bus or get to daycare, then make sure that their bedtime is 10-12 hours before they need to wake up for the day. The huge benefit that your child gets with having their bedtime being the same all year long, is that they don’t have to undergo a significant adjustment in their sleep schedule the last few weeks of summer vacation. In essence, the school year for them starts when school starts.
Best Practice for Bedtime
As a professional, my best recommendation is to keep your child’s bedtime the same all year long. By leaving bedtime the same, you give your child the best opportunities to get the amount of sleep their minds and bodies require and to be fully recharged and revitalized for the next day. Infants, toddlers, and school-age children thrive on routine, structure, and consistency. This applies to bedtime exponentially. If bedtime is always the same, then it’s one less thing to worry and stress about during the summer months, holidays, and weekends. In reality, an occasional later bedtime won’t hurt - IF your child is generally a good sleeper and is able to manage their sleep well on their own. If your child isn’t a great sleeper or is extremely reliant on their schedule, then changing their bedtimes is more likely to backfire on you than help you or them. This is where consistency comes into play and becomes your ally.
Additionally, if you keep your child's bedtime the same all year long, then you guarantee that YOU get some kid-time time in the summer months - time to enjoy an adult beverage while sitting on the deck, enjoying the nice weather. In doing this, you give your kids the rest that they need, but you also give yourself a chance to relax as well. That's a win in any parent's book!
Starting the School Year Off Right
The start of school can be stressful for all parties involved, especially for your child. Help them get started off on the right foot and set them up for success by getting them set up on a good nighttime schedule. Set them up on a sleep schedule where they are able to get the amount of sleep that they need every night to recharge and face each school day well rested and ready for whatever the school day will bring.
If you are not sure what schedule is optimal for your child or need more support on helping them get on track for the school year, click here to set up a time to speak with me and I will help you develop a schedule that sets up your child for success and get the sleep they need.
I am a Pediatric Sleep Consultant who works with families to help them resolve their littles' sleep issues. As a mom of two littles herself, Katie has walked in the shoes of her clients and is passionate about helping them re-discover peaceful sleeps in their own homes.