Going back to school involves the relaxed, lazy days of summer are about to give way to packed schedules, homework, after-school activities, and – most robust of all -waking the kids up early. The change of pace can be a surprise to the whole family.
1. Start Planning Early
Start preparing your kids at least a week before school starts. Jill Spivack, LCSW, co-author of The Sleepeasy Solution, The Exhausted Parent’s Guide to Getting Your Child to Sleep, suggests calling a family meeting to establish a new sleep schedule and get everyone on board.
According to the National Sleep Foundation, kids aged 5-12 require 10 to 11 hours of sleep each night. Children aged 10-18 want a little less — 8.5 to 9.5 hours per night. But most kids don’t get sufficient sleep.
You can show your kids that you know – and care — that getting back into a cycle may not be fun. But also let them know that the schedule change is intended to help them feel good when they are at school. “It comes from a place of love and education about the value of sleep, and not control,” Spivack says.
2. Look Beyond Bedtime
Many parents suspect teens will give them a hard time about a cell phone or computer curfew. Swanson suggests talking with them about privileges and consequences. He indicates a script along the lines of, We have given you the opportunity of having a cell phone, handheld games, etc., and we have entrusted you with them. If you can show us that you can stick to this transition, high, but if you are using them after bedtime, you are showing us you can’t manage it, and we need to help you. Swanson says you can help by being prepared to take the items away if your child can’t hold to the plan.
3. Get Back to the Routine
After months of staying up fresh, you can’t go to bed earlier before you begin waking up earlier, Spivack says. So, at least a week before the summer holiday ends, start setting the alarm clocks.
Begin with a wake-up time that is about an hour quicker than usual. For example, if your 6-year-old goes to bed at 9 p.m. during the summer and wants to get back to an 8 p.m. bedtime for school, start by waking her up at 7 a.m. rather than making her sleep until 8. Then try inching her night back the next night to 8:30 p.m. On day two, wake her up at 6:30 a.m. and work for an 8 p.m. night.
4. A Little Bribery Never Hurts
Who does not love a shopping spree? Kids of all ages and even teens look forward to buying new clothes, backpacks, and school supplies. You can do this to motivate kids to get on a sleep schedule.
Swanson says to let them know that as soon as they get back on routine, you and they will get the school supplies. And when you do, you may even splurge, but only if they get on track.
5. Make Morning Time Work
Spivack and Swanson both say that establishing expectations for your child is critical.
One thing Joyner does to make it more comfortable on her child is to do some of the morning work the night before. We set out his clothes at night, so when he wakes up, it is easier for him, and he can avoid having to figure out what to wear in the morning, Joyner says. And don’t forget that positive feedback goes a great way with kids. He wants to please, Joyner says. He knows it brings me such joy when I don’t have to wake him out of bed for 45 minutes or tell him to do what has to be done.” When he performs well, she gave him a high five.