June 1, 2016
The longest day of the year is fast approaching. How do parents of young children meet their child's need for twelve to fourteen hours of sleep when night falls after their bedtime in the summer?
Here are some suggestions. Get room darkening shades or curtains to block the sun. Stick to your rhythms. If you usually have dinner, bath, bedtime snack, teeth-brushing, then book-reading before lights out in bed, then do it in the summertime, too. Fortunately with the large amount of outdoor play in summer, children tend to be exhausted in the evening.
If your child does not appear tired at the end of the day, don't misread a second wind as healthy energy; it's overdrive fueled by stress hormones. Keep your child from experiencing this; stress hormones wear down the body and disrupt neurological connections from building. While children are growing and moving so much, they need restorative sleep and stress hormones can keep them from falling asleep and staying asleep during the night. Especially, avoid asking your child if he or she is tired; children are not capable of reading the signs but they do know what an admission of fatigue leads to.
If you stick to a regular bedtime rhythm most of the time, you can probably stretch it by staying up later on holidays or special events during the summer, especially if those evenings are followed by leisurely mornings.
Considering that tired children have more accidents and less positive social encounters with others, you will want to think seriously about your child's sleep schedule. Start with the time you need to get up in the morning and work backwards from there. If you get up at 7:00 a.m., plan on a 7:00 p.m. bedtime, 6:30 p.m. snack, 6:00 p.m. bath and perhaps dinner at 5:15 or 5:30 p.m..
If that sounds too restrictive for you, remember that your child will not be young forever; it is actually a short period of time. Although each day may feel long (and it is if your child's bedtime is late), the early childhood years are short. You will be doing an act of kindness to yourself (think of what you can do with childfree evenings), your child (who will be happier and healthier), and anyone your child encounters during the day.
If you need assistance or more information, talk to your child's teacher or contact a sleep consultant. Others can provide support if you provide the motivation. It's well worth the effort.