Back to School: The Importance of Bedtime Routines

It’s that time of year again where kids are getting up to early morning alarms, school lunches are packed, and busses slow down traffic in the morning and afternoon picking up and dropping off children. September has always felt like a “fresh start.” A time to reorganize and recommit. I love the fun-loving vibes of summer but also crave the familiar routines of the school year.

School routines are important for you and your child. What routines are you returning to?

Early bedtimes

Sleep is vital to all of us, but it is especially crucial for our children. In the summer, bedtimes may have shifted later with the setting sun, but now that school has started, regular early bedtimes have become important. Often children get labeled as trouble makers or have low school performance, and not enough sleep is the culprit. How much sleep does your child need? You may be surprised by the recommendations. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends

3-5 years of age10-13 hours, including naps
6-12 years of age9-12 hours
13-18 years of age8-10 hours

          Pre-bed Routines

Establishing a pre-bed routine is part of the trick of getting your child in bed earlier. It’s essential to make this routine as predictable and regular as possible. Some ideas to consider:

  1. Have a set time to look at homework and organize backpacks for the morning. This allows you and your child time to talk about what happened at school today and think about preparing for tomorrow.
  2. Even though children do not need to be bathed every day, bath or shower time often proves to be an excellent way to signal that the day is ending and it is time to relax.
  3. Set a time to turn off electronic devices and be sure they are plugged in to recharge overnight. The best practice is to keep electronic devices out of the bedroom, so they don’t disturb a child’s sleep.
  4. Establish 20 minutes for quiet reading before bed. The parent can read to the child, or the child can read on their own.
  5. And finally, a set bedtime helps a child establish good sleep patterns. Set a bedtime for as many nights as possible and commit to keeping it. Children are masters at delaying bedtime, be prepared, and start your routine early to plan for the predictable stall tactics.

Progress Not Perfection

The goal is progress, not perfection. Bedtime can be a stressful time of the evening when many things can go wrong. If you strive for a perfect bedtime routine, you and your child will get frustrated. Family life is busy with outside activities, sports, and music commitments. There are times when dinner is late, PJs aren’t clean, or your child has a meltdown right as you are trying to get them to relax. When these things happen, give yourself some grace, take a deep breath, and do your best. Nothing is ever perfect. As you strive to create bedtime routines that work for your family, know that you set them up to have the best tomorrow possible.

Written By: Christine B., Masters Level Intern

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