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Six Steps for Adjusting to a Back to School Bedtime

by Dr. Heather Wittenberg | August 6, 2012 | Child Development

 My two-year-old has a 10 p.m. bedtime. It happened gradually, over the summer. Longer, relaxed days, keeping up with her older siblings, and special outings and occasions have all pushed her usual 8 p.m. bedtime to this ridiculously late point.

It’s gotta stop. I can picture us during the first week of school: bleary-eyed children (and crabby parents), negotiating a new schedule, new classrooms, new friends and new teachers. Yikes! We’d better start getting to bed earlier NOW.

Here’s my reality-based plan for a saner sleep schedule – BEFORE school starts:

  1. Be realistic. Going to bed early is no fun when there’s still summer play to enjoy. So plan on an earlier bedtime – for everyone – just four to five days before school starts.
  2. Go gradual. Bump bedtime a bit earlier each night by no more than 15 minutes to ease into the new routine.
  3. Go outside and play. Morning sun and outside activity maximize your tot’s chances of better – and earlier – nighttime Z’s.
  4. Cut the junk food. Offer yummy summer fruits instead of sugary sweets. Spend time shopping and prepping quality meals with the kids. High quality nutrition makes for better sleep (and lots of learning).
  5. Talk – and prep. It’s natural to be a little nervous about starting a new school year. To banish nighttime anxieties, tour the school, meet with friends and teachers, and talk about the changes ahead.
  6. Prep YOUR schedule. The first week of school is always a little stressful, with new demands and unfamiliar routines. Anticipate rough patches by making your own schedule as flexible as possible, knowing that soon, you’ll all be back on track.
     Questions about what to expect from your little one this time of year? Post your question in a comment below.