Staying up late and sleeping in seem to be the highlight for kids on summer vacation.
But as the days of summer start their final countdown, medical professionals say it’s time for parents to start setting their kids’ body clocks back to school mode.
That means waking the kids up earlier and sending them to bed a little less late.
An ideal time to start the transition is two weeks before the first day of class, said pediatrician Dr. Jane Winter at Essentia Health’s Baxter clinic. That way, parents can ease their kids back into the normal school schedule.
Even if parent’s start just a few days or a week before, it’s better than a harsh start of waking the youngster up on the first day of school without any ease back into it.
“It helps them be more focused the first week,” Winter said. “If they’re better rested, they aren’t crabby.”
She suggests starting slow, with 30 minutes earlier for both the bedtime and wake up time. Stick with that for a few days and then add another 30 minutes to each. Continue that until you reach the optimal bedtime and wake up time.
“You want to inch into it,” she said.
Winter herself practices what she preaches with her own children, starting when her oldest, who is now a junior in high school, started school.
She starts two weeks before school starts, trying to ease bedtimes back to normal school bedtimes.
Sleep is critical for children’s health, she said, noting that teenagers need as much slumber time as a 2-year-old, with eight to 10 hours. Elementary age children need anywhere from nine-13 hours.
“All kids are different,” Winter said. “Some can handle staying up later.”
Beginning this new sleep schedule shouldn’t be too difficult for parents of kids who are younger than 12, as Winter recommends having summer bedtimes be only one hour later than school bedtimes anyway.
Teenagers, on the other hand, may be a little more resistant.
An earlier rise time helps kids be tired enough to go to bed earlier, Winter said.
“I think this helps the whole family prepare for back to school schedules,” she said. “Kids who wait until the last minute will really struggle the first week or two of school. Some even can’t stay awake during class. This gets the school year off to a bad start for the kids and teachers.”
Something else to consider: dial back video game or other screen time and encourage reading, handwriting or math flashcards. It helps get their minds ready, Winter said.