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Our Blog: August 6, 2012

Six Steps for Adjusting to a Back to School Bedtime

 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.

About the Author

Dr. Heather Wittenberg

Dr. Wittenberg is a psychologist specializing in the development of babies, toddlers, preschoolers — and parents. She offers no-hype, practical parenting advice on her blog BabyShrink — rooted in science, and road tested in her own home as the mother of four young children. She has helped thousands of parents over the years and knows that the most common problems with young children — sleep, feeding, potty training and behavior — can be the most difficult ones to solve.