How to prepare your kids for a sleep routine as they return to school


As the start of the school year approaches and store shelves are filled with book bags and notebooks, one parenting expert says school supplies aren’t the only thing parents should prepare for come September.


A healthy sleep routine could make all the difference in a child’s academic and overall well-being, studies have shown, but it can be tricky to set a new sleeping schedule for an excited child that’s grown accustomed to playing outdoors all summer long.


Caron Irwin, parenting expert and founder of Roo Family, a consulting service for parents and caregivers, says creating a bedtime routine can not only help set up a child for success throughout the school year, but also for their future so they can develop health habits at a young age.


“Often in the summertime, bedtime routines kind of go by the wayside because every evening might be different depending on what’s going on, but a really great strategy is to start to re-establish or create that bedtime routine,” Irwin told CTVNews.ca in a phone interview on Thursday.


Here are some tips to create an effective bedtime routine.


WITH GUIDANCE, LET THEM LEAD


Imposing a new routine after a three-month period of non-stop summer fun can cause a stir in the household, but involving children in the creation of their bedtime routine can help smooth over a power imbalance, Irwin explains.


“It can be really valuable to communicate the bedtime routine in an age appropriate way,” she said.


Sitting down to communicate with your child about why they need to start going to sleep earlier and asking what would help them achieve this can allow a child to feel empowered to make their own decisions, Irwin said.


Depending on the age of the child, she recommends using different strategies like a simple discussion for a pre-teen or teenager, or using pictures with a younger child to map out what they need to do before going to bed like brushing their teeth or changing into their pyjamas.


“Getting their input is really important because not only does that provide a preview in preparing them for this change, but it also empowers them because they’ll be involved in making some of the suggestions of the plan,” she said.


INCORPORATING SOOTHING ACTIVITIES


As for the actual bedtime routine, Irwin recommends incorporating soothing activities to help prepare children for bed.


Some pre-bed rituals that can help include reading a book together before bed, meditation, or deciding on a cut-off time for the use of phones, tablets or any gadget with a screen before bed.


One tip Irwin has for helping children settle down before bed is playing calming music around them as they take a bath or brush their teeth. This will get them mentally prepared that it’s time to rest and help them relax.


“Playing the same soothing playlist of music as they’re going through what I call like the jobs of the bedtime routine’, like the bath, pyjamas, brushing their teeth, because that helps cue their body for what’s to come and help settle them as they’re going through those steps,” she said.


STARTING A ROUTINE GRADUALLY


Most parents struggle with getting their kids accustomed to a new schedule during the first week of school, but going through a “dress rehearsal” of their new routine can help with a smoother transition, Irwin explains.


The best way to get children accustomed to their new sleeping schedule is to gradually change the time they sleep each night to an earlier time in the weeks leading up to school starting, which will help them ease into their routine, she noted.


For example, if you want your child to be in bed by 8 p.m. but they’re currently going to bed at 9 p.m., you can try to slowly shift that bedtime` earlier by increments of 15 minutes each night.


“Maybe the first night they’re going to bed at 9:30 p.m., then you shift it to 91:5 p.m.; that’s also a really helpful tip to get kids sort of back on track with a more reasonable bedtime,” Irwin said.


Ultimately, Irwin recommends including children in every step of creating or re-establishing their bedtime routine to help them co-operate and gain a sense of independence simultaneously.


“We need to still be involved, but finding ways to include our child and let them have the opportunity to be a leader under our guidance really helps us have success,” she said.

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