(BPT) – As a parent, you know how important a routine can be in keeping your children happy and well-adjusted. However, there will come a time where your tried-and-true routine must be adjusted to handle life’s circumstances.
Whether it’s every year at daylight saving time, the start of the school year or holiday travel, you’ll often be faced with the challenge of adjusting what time your child wakes up and goes to bed. But there’s no reason to panic when sleep schedules change. With a few helpful tips, you can have your children back on a routine and feeling rested as they adjust to their new schedules.
Sleep expert Kim West, licensed clinical social worker, also known as The Sleep Lady, offers the following tips for making a seamless transition to new bedtimes.
During the fall we change the clocks back an hour late at night while we sleep. The next morning let your child wake up at his natural time – which according to the clock will be an hour earlier. Schedule your day according to the new clock time. If your child’s bedtime was 7:30 p.m. the clock will say 6:30 p.m. Make sure your child is well napped so they can make it to at least 7 p.m. the new time. If your child is too tired the first day and you fear they will miss their sleep window then put them to bed at 6:30 p.m. and try to gently push their bedtime later the next day. She may wake up early for a few days but then she’ll adjust.
New school or day care schedule
Changes and transitions can be stressful for small children who don’t always understand why they are happening. It’s not uncommon to see your child suddenly have more difficulty separating than usual whether it’s at drop-off at school or saying good night at bedtime. There may be more stalling and cajoling to keep you in their room at night or even more frequent nightmares. It’s important to make sure that your child doesn’t get sleep deprived which can make the changes more difficult.
It can be hard for children (and adults) to fall asleep in a new place. To help make it easier, bring along a lovey and pack a night light, and go ahead and take along favorite books and toys. You want your child to have items that feel and smell comforting and familiar.
Bedtime preparations should be in your child’s room, not all over the house. Include stories, songs, or games that soothe, not stimulate. Make sure the rules for how many stories, or how long you will read, are completely clear and non-negotiable. Leave plenty of time, at least a half hour, for her to unwind, and to get the attention from you she needs. If she starts bargaining for an even longer time with you, tell her the clock says you have to stop reading at 8 p.m., so you have 10 minutes. If two parents take turns at bedtime, you don’t have to follow an identical script but you should have a similar routine, style and response to bedtime power plays, fears or manipulation.
Many children may not be comfortable in complete darkness, but darkness is important to a restful night of sleep as it allows the body to initiate the melatonin secretion process that’s key to restorative rest. Toys designed to help your children sleep can help soothe your child and provide a dim light to put him more at ease as he falls asleep.
By consciously making an effort to help your child adjust to a new schedule, you’ll help ensure that sleep-filled nights will continue for everyone in the family. The small changes you make will have big effects, as everyone will be happier when they’re getting a good night’s sleep.