Summer vacation is drawing to a close, and for those of you with children, that means a return to the regular routine of the school year. While you may have been playing it fast and loose with summer-break bedtimes, your kids will need a smooth transition back to the school year routine. Their classroom performance could depend on it.
Changing your sleep routine is never easy—regardless of age—but the importance of a good night’s rest cannot be understated. Getting the right amount of sleep is even more vital for your kids (see my sleep infographic post from July), especially as they grow, learn and adapt to their busy schedules.
With that in mind, here are a few tips for making sure your kids are bright-eyed and bushy-tailed when the school bus rolls up.
- Don’t wait until the first day of school.
Changing gears from vacation to the new school year can be jarring enough. But if the transition is accompanied by an abrupt change in sleep schedules, the effect can be even more unsettling. Instead, try starting a couple weeks before the first day of school, and gradually adjust your kids’ bedtimes as that first day approaches. This gives your kids more time to adjust to the change.
- Ease into bedtime.
Making an abrupt change from wakefulness to sleep can be difficult for adults, but for kids, it can be next to impossible. Children should start winding down an hour or so before bedtime to ensure that any excess energy doesn’t keep them up after the lights are out. This might include quiet reading time or a relaxing bath. You know your kids best, so determine what works—and stick with it.
- Limit screen time.
Any bedtime routine should limit—or maybe even eliminate—screen time. Whether your son or daughter is playing a video game, watching TV or simply surfing the Internet, staring at a glowing screen does a number of things to inhibit rest. Aside from stimulating the brain, a screen’s glow can even slow down the release of melatonin in the brain, which helps you fall asleep.
- Make their bedroom a restful space.
They may be called bedrooms, but these spaces are often some of the most difficult places to get a good night’s rest. To make sure your child’s room is a space that’s conducive to sleep, start by eliminating any electronic distractions. If possible, the room should be cool and dark. Some kids may even benefit from black-out curtains. It helps to pay attention to the little things, such as a clock, which could be a help or a hindrance. For some people, the monotonous ticking of a clock is a lullaby, but for others, it could have the opposite effect.
Like most of us, your kids may want to hang on to the days of summer until the very last moment. But ignoring the fact that school is approaching could make for a rocky transition. Instead, plan ahead for the new school routine. You’ll thank yourself later.
David Lowenstein, Ph.D. is a Psychologist and the Clinical Director of Lowenstein & Associates, Inc. in Columbus, Ohio. In addition to providing therapeutic services to individuals and families, he offers training and consultation to numerous associations, schools and agencies around the country. Additionally, he is a frequent radio and TV guest and a resource and contributing writer for numerous newspapers and magazines nationwide. Contact Dr. David Lowenstein at 691 South Fifth Street Columbus, OH 43206 or by phone at 614.443.6155 or 614.444.0432.