Between the decimation of normal life in the spring and this long, boring-arse summer we’re all wading through, one thing parents may have become extra lax on is a consistent bedtime. Some days I decide enough is enough (for now) and my son needs to go to bed at a decent hour but mostly I’m just like, “What does bedtime even matter anymore?”
Of course, it does matter. Or it will matter, come August or September when our kids will be expected to get up early and be ready to learn in some strange new way. This Spring is going to be stressful for them whether they’re trying to work from home or whether they’re trying to get through the day distanced and in a mask. If we add “exhausted” on top of that, we’re in for an even bigger disaster.
A week or two before school starts is a common time for parents to suddenly realise that bedtimes have been creeping later and later all summer and they’d better start to shift back in the other direction. But given the lack of structure that many kids are living under right now, I’d like to suggest we all start tackling bedtime now so we have one less thing to be freaking out about the weekend before school starts back up. The sooner we start, the slower and more gently we can manage this.
Shorten the bedtime routine
For young kids who still rely on you to walk them through a bedtime routine, you can ease into an earlier bedtime by shortening up the routine a bit. A short shower instead of a long bath. Two books instead of three books, 10 minutes of cuddles instead of 15. As they become accustomed to the earlier bedtime, you can offer to add those longer elements back in with the understanding that the routine will need to start a little sooner.
Wake ‘em up
The best way to get kids to go to bed earlier is by making sure they’re tired by bedtime. You can ease into this by starting to wake them up a little earlier in the morning. You don’t need to go straight for school wake-up time, but if they’re getting up around 8:30 a.m. now, start by setting an alarm clock for 8:15. It’s not a huge shock to their sleep system, but if you set it 10 or 15 minutes earlier every few days, it will help them get used to getting up on a schedule and feeling more tired at bedtime.
Introduce (or finally enforce) a screen curfew
Knowing our kids really should turn those screens off one hour before bedtime (the blue light they emit can contribute to poor sleep) and actually enforcing it might be two different things, especially right now when screen time is at all all-time peak. If one hour seems like too big of a jump right away, start by insisting the devices go off 30 minutes before lights out and work your way up to an hour from there.
Or try some of these ideas
Getting our kids to go to bed (and stay in bed!) might be a little extra challenging right now, but it’s certainly not a new problem and it’s one we’ve written about many times in the past. You may find a helpful trick or two here:
- Turn your kid’s room into a dark cave before bed
- Get your kids to stay in bed with the “bedtime pass”
- How to turn your kid’s dropped nap into “quiet time”
- Sleep train your toddler using this method by Harvey Karp
- How to help your teen get more sleep
- How to survive when you’re a night-owl parent with an early-bird kid
- How to wake up kids who don’t want to wake up
It’s also helpful for you (and your older kids) to know exactly how much sleep they actually need, which varies by age.