Oh sweet, sweet summer evenings. When the air is just a bit more bearable, the tinkling of the ice cream truck is punctuated by basketballs meeting the pavement under the mellow streetlights. When fireflies gently pop through the atmosphere just begging to be caught by little hands, and
ERRR. ERRR. ERRR.
Yes, that would be the alarm clock welcoming the return of the school year. Schedules, bedtimes, routines are all out the window at the first hint of the cricket soundtrack. And so schedules, bedtimes and routines are all that much more difficult to get going again come the time new backpacks are slung over shoulders.
Berna and John Diehls three boys, Lucas, 10, Aaron, 8, and Jacob, 6, have been going to bed about 9:30 this summer, at least a full hour past their school bedtime. Like many of us, the Virginia parents didnt want to cheat them out of those magical summer nights at the neighborhood pool.
But also like many of us, Berna moans a bit when thinking of the first few weeks of school. When Lucas first started kindergarten, we were pretty concerted about getting him back on a schedule before school, she said. They eased into it, bumping up his bedtime by 15 minutes every night before school, so he was on a schedule again come the first day. Now? Any sense of discussion and planning around it just gets overruled by just wanting to enjoy summer, because it slips through your fingers so fast.
Shes found what works for her boys just as well is a Band-Aid approach: When school is in session, its time to get to bed by 8 or 8:30. That first week might be a little rough, but the boys are so tired that the schedule just falls into place.
This might not be the case for everyone.
Smaller children tend to be early risers, so getting them up isnt much of an issue, said Craig Canapari, physician and director of pediatric sleep at Massachusetts General Hospital. Those on the cusp of adolescence have the biggest issues.
They can really end up on a fairly shifted schedule, he said. Every teenager has this biological drive to go to bed later and get up later.
Just like when our children were babies, a quiet-time routine is a good idea. Canapari said its important to shut off all electronics at least an hour before bed. The light from iPads, iPhones, televisions and computers hinder melatonin production and cause sleeplessness.
But dont forget to involve children in the process. Particularly with teens, it tends not to go well if its unilateral, Canapari said.
The other important piece of the sleep puzzle is to be consistent, said Jessica Brodey, a child sleep coach with Eat-Sleep-Love consulting company in Bethesda, Md. If you tell children they can stay up late one night, then the next night its early to bed, they dont know what to expect from you, she said. Consistency also helps internal clocks get reset.