Summer is bliss. And I hate to begin the dreaded drudgery of ending it, but it is already August. And school is right around the corner, (if not already here) which means early mornings and early bedtimes. Are you ready for it?
And even if you are ready for it, is your child? And better yet how do you get your child ready, not to mention, excited about waking up early for school. Whether you are dreading or anxiously waiting for the predictability that comes with the new school season, we all struggle to find the best way for our children to adjust to their schedule. Furthermore, whether your child is 4 months, 4 years, 8 years, or 16 years, the principles I am about to share do in fact work and you and your child will be excited about it!
Let’s just be real honest here and talk about what your summer sleep schedule looks like. It’s late. We are all going to bed late, we are waking late. That is just the way it is. When we are dealing with a late night and a late morning we have to begin making the changes for a school appropriate schedule in the morning. I know it is not fun, and it is hard to force yourself to wake up earlier. But it is a must.
The only way to help your child fall asleep earlier is to wake him up earlier. And while you can definitely take the gradual approach and wake your child up 15 minutes earlier every day until getting up and going down at your goal times, that is going to take some time and dedication. Now, if you know me at all, you know that when I am ready to make a change I make that change like I rip a band-aid off: fast.
So how can you find the motivation to not just get yourself up but also wake your child up earlier
than normal? Make it fun! I am serious. Plan a fun event that will take place first thing in the morning. Your one requirement is that you and your child be extremely excited about it! Excited enough to wake up at their school wakeup goal time. Did I lose you there? If your child has to be up by 7am to get to school on time then 7am is your school wakeup goal time. Plan a breakfast out with friends or family. Take your family to the lake, go boating and play in the water and sand. Anything to get you and your child out of bed with excitement.
BUT there are a few more vital steps you have to follow or all your hard work will be for nothing. You cannot let your child sleep during the day more than normal. If your child is not napping make it your mission to prevent any catnaps that day. If your child is napping keep that nap to the normal length. Now your child is going to have some sleep deprivation from waking so early. In fact, the final piece of the puzzle will be a much earlier bedtime.
The AAP has issued some standards for how much sleep your child should be getting. Below I have taken that information and added the averages for each age. Averages are a great place to start, but know that your child may need more or less. I use a few different indicators to tell me if a child needs more sleep. First, how is the mood of your child when first waking up for the day? Are they groggy and/or moody? If so, more sleep may be needed. Second look at how quickly your child is falling asleep. I like it to take about 10-15 minutes for a child to fall asleep. Anything less than that and you may want to experiment with an earlier bedtime. Anything more than that and you may have a too early or too late bedtime.
To use the chart below, first identify your child’s sleep needs. Then count backwards starting from the time your child needs to wake up to determine the appropriate bedtime. I recommend putting your child to bed about 15 minutes earlier to allow him some time to gently drift off to sleep. And remember since your child woke up earlier (and therefore got overall less sleep the night before) you may consider moving bedtime 15-30 minutes earlier just for that one night. Here’s to hoping your child starts the first day of school well-rested, happy and alert!