It’s been a rough couple of months for parents. Most families have been stuck at home, virtually non-stop with their children. The demands of remote learning, working from home, and normal routine disruption have led to a deviation from our prior lives. For many families this has meant a daily bedtime that’s pretty far from normal. But as the stay-at-home orders ease, how can you get your children ready for the daily grind once more?
Start shifting your schedule
Just like with Daylight’s Savings, you can try to shift your child’s schedule back day-by-day. If you know that daycare or camp may be opening in a week, start waking your child about 15 minutes earlier every day or two. Also, put your child to bed 15 minutes earlier. By the end of the week, your child should be back to waking at their normal time, and bedtime should be back to where it was. (PS-shift meal times and nap time back too if they’ve crept later).
Remove Electronics Before Bed
We hate to admit it, but electronics have been the key to successful parenting over the past few months. Whether it’s the daily Zoom classes for school or some extra screen time just so you can finish up a work call, many parents rely on tablets and TV for their child’s engagement. But, blue light from electronics can delay the production of melatonin. So, if your child is struggling to fall asleep at night, consider removing screens about an hour before bedtime. Studies have found that the melatonin production starts to increase fairly quickly once the blue light is removed.
Get Back to Basics
Remember when your child was a baby and everything you read told you to establish a nightly “routine.” Well, the same holds true for older children. Create a bedtime routine that is predictable and consistent. You may have had a routine prior to the Stay-At-Home-Order, or perhaps you didn’t. A nightly routine helps a child wind down before bedtime, and also removes some of the parent’s stress. Start with a bath or shower, followed by the brushing teeth and pajamas, then onto books and cuddles, and lastly, getting into bed.
Set Realistic Boundaries
Since some families have deviated from their normal schedules, it may be hard to get back on track. Start talking to your child about what’s expected of them in terms of sleep. For your preschooler, this may mean reading them a book about staying in bed or purchasing an Ok to Wake clock. For an older child, this may mean telling them to get in bed at a given time but allowing them to read a few books on their own before calling “lights out.”
Get Outside Help
Sometimes, even with the best planning and routine, children still have trouble adapting to the old schedule. If you’ve tried all the tricks above and your child is still struggling to fall asleep at night, talk to your doctor about supplementing with melatonin for a few days. Although it is not a long-term solution, melatonin supplements may help reset your child’s internal clock when they first start back at daycare, camp, or school.
It can be daunting to think about returning to “normal” when so much is still up in the air but, getting your child’s sleep back on track may help alleviate parental stress and may make your child happier overall.