If you have school-age little ones, then you know that the Christmas/New Years break always seems to fly by. Before you know it, it’s that time again…back to school. The holidays are full of fun and festive reasons to veer away from your usual routine, so heading back to school after a short break can sometimes be a rough transition.
Before you know it, the sleeping-ins and staying up lates are gone. And you have to now get back into a predictable schedule. Or so we hope…
The first few days can be challenging to get back in the swing of things because most of us allow our children to stay up later during the holidays. Those early mornings are dreaded and can be rough, for both kiddos and parents.
Returning your children to a proper schedule can be quite an ordeal without a game plan. I’ve got you covered with my essential tips for heading back to school after the holidays!
1. Turn off those screens
TV, phone screens, and computers all emit blue light, which tricks our internal clocks into thinking it’s still daytime, inhibiting our natural melatonin production. I recommend turning off electronics after dinnertime and keeping them off until the next day. But if that’s too much to ask, at least an hour before bedtime. (This goes for you too, Mom and Dad!)
2. Routine, routine, routine
I preach this one ALL.THE.TIME. I don’t care if your child is going to kindergarten or 12th grade! A consistent sleep routine is essential. A routine is not just about physically getting ready for bed. A routine signals our brain that we are transitioning out of day and into night and sleep is to follow. A routine cues the brain that bedtime is near, as the brain begins shutting down in preparation for sleep. A proper routine is about 30-45 minutes in length, does not include screen time, and is consistent night after night.
You may also want to establish a morning routine to help your little ones know what to expect each morning before school. This will help your morning go much smoother, ensuring everyone gets to school and work on time with their teeth brushed and clothes on the right side out.
3. Schedule an appropriate bedtime
Every child is different, so you probably have an idea of when they should go to bed. That being said, I hope your idea is 8:00pm! I can hear some of you now, “My child doesn’t even get tired until 10:00 or 10:30, so I figure…” And I’m going to stop you right there. 8:00pm. Every. Night. No later. Kids need at least 10 hours of sleep per night, so until you can wake them up and get them ready for school at lightning speed, 8:00pm it is.
Start with the needed wake up time for school and count backwards
- 3-5 year olds (preschool): 10 – 13 hours, start with 12
- 5-7 year olds: 10 – 11 hours, start with 11
- 7-9 year olds: 9 – 11 hours, start with 10
Bonus tip: Maintain that schedule even on the weekends (and during school breaks as much as possible) to make it easier on their body clocks, especially when Monday rolls around.
4. Wind down before bed
Try not to over-schedule activities in the evening, or at least keep it to a minimum number of days per week. No screen time ideally 2 hours prior to bedtime. Include reading time, whether your child is an independent reader or you’re reading to them. A half-hour of book time is a great way to wind down before going to sleep. And of course, a consistent bedtime routine should also be a part of the wind-down process.
5. Create the ideal sleep environment
Your child’s bed is for sleep. Their bed should not be used for other activities like homework or video games. If they need a place to study or do homework that isn’t the good old-fashioned kitchen table, create a separate space in their room or another room, if possible.
At night, make sure the room is dark and cool. During the winter months, this is easier than the beginning of the school year because the sun goes down so early. (Too early in my opinion…) Ideal sleeping temperature is between 68-72 degrees, which again is much easier to maintain in the winter.
Use a sound machine or fan to drown out environmental noises that can prevent your child from falling asleep or wake them during lighter stages of sleep.
6. Remove temptations
Older kiddos with cell phones can be tempted to sneak a few extra minutes of texting, scrolling through social media or the web if they have their phones in their rooms at night. Change the rules around phones in the bedroom. Keep the charger in the kitchen, and have them plug it in at night before bedtime, and they can hae their precious phone back in the morning.
The quality and quantity of sleep children get has a profound impact on how they learn and retain information, interact with others, and cope with day to day life. Creating healthy sleep habits will not only ensure your home is peaceful at bedtime and in the morning but will also set your child up for lifelong learning (and life) success.
7. Communicate expectations
Don’t assume that your child(ren) knows what you want them to do. Use a chart with pictures if need be. Children are visual learners so this is a great tool that you can use to help your child have a sense of control over bedtime and learn the expectations around bedtime.
Of course, if your family has gone weeks or months without a good night’s sleep, all the tips & tricks in the world may not help you get to the bottom of your sleep struggles. We know that when we aren’t sleeping, we aren’t performing at our best. So if your child is struggling to sleep, they may be struggling in school as well.
I offer a FREE no-obligation Sleep Evaluation for families like yours, so you can see what Sleep Training is all about and how it could help your family finally get the sleep you need to ace this new school year!