My blog post this week is to help move bedtime earlier for the start of school this fall. This school year my newly minted five year old daughter Lizzy will be starting Kindergarten. How did this happen. Just 5 short years ago she was a tiny adorable newborn with a set of lungs that could wake the dead. In what seems a blink of an eye, she has grown into an amazing young girl and now is preparing to make the big leap to riding a school bus and continuing her education. And boy is she ready (read insanely excited).
One of the responsibilities that I have as a mom is to make sure that she is ready for this new chapter in her young life. I need to make sure we have purchased a new back pack, new clothes, new shoes, a year’s worth of school supplies and that we both know where her bus stop will be. But another and equally important responsibility is to make sure that Lizzy is physically and emotionally ready for the first day of school.
One way I can ensure this is that she is getting her necessary 11 – 12 hours of sleep each night. This all starts with an age appropriate school year bedtime.
During the summer months, like many families everywhere, we, pushed bedtime back a bit to accommodate the longer sunshiny days. There is so much to see and do during the summer between running and playing and trips to Grand mom’s pool that we need an extra hour or so to accomplish it all.
So now this leaves me with a daughter who is able and expecting to stay awake until the sun begins to set. What’s a mother to do to correct this before school starts? She will need to wake up earlier in the morning to get ready for school as she is not a child that can be rushed in the morning. Lizzy loves to slowly acclimate to the day ahead and as hard as there is no pushing her to move faster.
Well no fear if your child is similar to my Lizzy, here is a gentle solution that will slowly acclimate their young little bodies to an earlier bedtime and hopefully keep the first weeks of school mid week meltdown to a minimum.
First thing that needs to be done is to make sure you have good black out shades installed in their room (I have blogged about the importance of black out shades in the past for healthy child sleep habits). The brain (and child) can become confused as to what to do if sunlight is still streaming through the windows when the body is being tucked into bed for the night. If the room in which the bedtime routine is taking place is appropriately dimmed prior to the start of the bedtime routine, your child’s body will pick up on bedtime cues and continue to release melatonin into the system.
You will also want to (if you haven’t done so already) limit screen time before bed. This includes TV, iPads, tablets, smart phones and computers. As I have discussed previously, all of these devices emit blue light which acts as a stimulant to the brain and for many children can make it much more difficult to fall asleep at bedtime. My advice is to turn all of these devices off at least 45 minutes prior to bed and spend time together as a family doing something a little more low key.
The next order of business is to slowly begin moving bedtime earlier by 15 minutes every 3 – 5 days. What this does is gently allow your child’s body to adjust to an earlier bedtime rather than go cold turkey the night before school starts and they are bouncing off the walls and full of energy when you are trying to calm them down for bed.
Sound familiar? Continue moving your child’s bedtime earlier in 15 minute increments every 3 – 5 days until you have reached your desired school year bedtime. Many children can make this adjustment easily by moving bedtime every 3 days, but for the little ones who need a bit more time to adapt, you’ll want to stick to the 5 day plan.
While making this adjustment, be prepared for your little ones to push back on what you are trying to achieve. It’s in their nature and should be expected. Just remember to stand your ground and stick to the plan. As long as you are consistent, they will see there is no wiggle room and cease protesting.
And finally, be sure to build excitement about the school year ahead and all the new and great experiences that your child will experience. I for one am treasuring the time with my Lizzy. She is so excited about Kindergarten and I am going to enjoy this because I know eventually, years down the road, the beginning of the school year will be met with lackluster acceptance rather than the bubbling enthusiastic daily countdown we are dealing with currently.
Sweet Dreams everyone and we’ll be seeing you at the bus stop. J