Updated: Jan 7
It’s hard to believe that I am even writing this, considering everything that is going on in the world right now! But our kids need an education, even in the midst of a Pandemic! It is going to look different for every family, maybe it means home schooling, online, daycare, or your local school. No matter what decisions you’ve been forced to make, you’re doing what is best for your family.
First of all, any degree of leniency that you have given yourself or your children over the last 6 months is both forgiven and judgement free! I think most of us ate bad food, maybe drank more wine than normal, allowed our kids more screen time, slept in more and went to bed later. I am guilty (but not because… I forgive myself) as well! It’s been a difficult time, constantly being home and trying to entertain little ones. I think most parents also relax more during summer, loosening up the rules and allowing kids to stay up later to enjoy summer vacation.
I remember being a kid and I hated getting out of bed for school! It was especially difficult after Sumer vacation. I struggled with falling asleep and laid awake a lot at night, this went well into my twenties actually. I had a few years where I was a full blown insomniac! So I know the struggle I gave my parents at night and in the morning, and to be honest, it wasn't fun going through it myself. But for whatever reason, kids have this FOMO about going to bed! I strongly believe that my childhood sleep issues just continued on through my whole life it actually very strange that it wasn't until I had kids that I was able to sort it out! Once I sleep trained them and got them sleeping 12 hours a night, my sleep issues resolved themselves!
Back to your kids! School is quickly approaching and it is time to start thinking about helping your kids with the transition back. Of course, there will be several differences from this year to last (ie. Masks eeek), but one thing that remains the same is early wake ups. I can’t help you with getting them to keep a mask on, (honestly who can!?) but I can give you some great tips to prepare them for the early morning wake ups that are fast approaching!
So, let’s talk strategy! It all starts with a solid bedtime routine and an age appropriate bed time. I recommend that all kids, from 3 months to 12 years, go to bed between 7-8:30pm. I know that sounds really early, but little ones need 10 -12 hours sleep per night. The good news for you is that an early bedtime also gives you much needed time alone or time with your spouse! We love our children dearly, but it’s important to have some time to ourselves to reset from the day. Whatever time you decide bedtime is, be consistent with it! Kids do best when things are predictable and consistent. If bedtime is currently 10PM, you will want to adjust them slowly. I recommend moving their bedtime up 20 mins, for 4 days at a time.
A solid bedtime routine is important for everybody, not just kiddos. It should be about 20-30 mins long and be the same each night. A calming routine will send a signal to your mind and body that it’s time to get ready to fall asleep. I also suggest turning off screens an hour or so before bedtime, because blue light will interfere with your ability to fall asleep. So instead of tv or an iPad, get your child a great book and read it with them. Reading is great activity to do before bed (shocker, I know!)
If your child is younger, you may get some serious push back at bedtime. For these kids, I like to suggest getting a timer to help you set limits. You can discuss with them that the timer is set for 20 mins and when the timer goes off that means it is time for lights out and bedtime. If they are really young, you can even place the blame on the timer and walk away without any blame (parent win!) It doesn’t need to be anything glamorous; you can use your phone if you want! I like having an item that your child can see and associate with bedtime, HERE is a cheap and simple one from Amazon that does the trick!
Creating a soothing environment in the bedroom with help as well. It should be cool and dark. I STRONGLY suggest putting blackout blinds in all of the bedrooms of your home. Even the smallest amount of light can interfere with your natural release of melatonin. It’s summer time, the sun is still out until late at night and this definitely impacts our internal clock (circadian rhythm.) There are tons of really nice (sometimes expensive) blackout blinds out there, THESE are cheap and easy to install on any window. I promise this will help everyone get a better quality of sleep!
Another thing to consider is nutrition. You’ll want to avoid sugar and caffeine in the evening, as these give us energy. Eating right before bed can also hinder a good night’s sleep. If you go to bed with a full stomach, your body is not able to rest as it is too busy digesting your midnight snack! If you do offer your child a snack before bed, as I know many young children enjoy, be sure that it is something light (think fruit, small bowl or cereal or yogurt)
I am very grateful that my kids are young and not in school yet. I do not envy the difficult decisions and many unknowns that parents with school children are dealing with right now. I may not have personal experience, but it’s always a good idea to focus on what you can control during difficult circumstances. Sleep is 100% something that you do have some control over, sometimes it just takes a little education and small tweaks to your routine.
If your child, school aged or not, is having difficulty with their sleep, please don’t be nervous to ask for help! It’s not all common knowledge and there is no shame in seeking information. I hope that these tips help you make the transition back to school a little bit smoother. Good luck <3
Founder of Counting Sheep