I love summer time for many reasons. One of the things I do NOT love about summer is the fact that it’s hard to get the kids to go to sleep when it’s still light outside. Yes, more daylight is good for my mental health, but not for my children’s sleep schedules.
How do you convince your young child to go to bed when it’s still “daylight”?
Room darkening shades really do help! If you have very young children, it won’t matter if it’s light outside. Think about it: many infants and toddlers nap during the day and are not bothered by sleeping during daylight hours.
It seems that around the age of 5, many children associate sleeping and night time together. If you have a child nearing that age, you may want to consider investing in darkening shades.
Explain The Schedule
Children make sense of their world by association. If a child can’t tell time yet, he learns to make sense of bedtime by associating the event with other events that occur at the same time. This is why it is so important to establish a bedtime routine with children: they begin to associate the routine with bedtime.
The extended daylight hours put a glitch in that predictable routine. A child may wonder why his parent is reading him a bedtime story when it’s light out and he can hear other children playing. This is especially true in the beginning of the summer when a child is used to going to sleep when it is dark outside. The fact that bedtime is 8 pm, irregardless of the lighting conditions outside does not really mean anything to him.
Keep The Routine The Same
This is where most parents make mistakes. They adjust the children’s sleep schedule or give into the crying and whining. While this may help in the short run and avoid conflict and crying temporarily, it doesn’t really make things better in the long run.
It’s best to sit down with your child and explain that bedtime is always at a certain time each day. Bedtime doesn’t happen because it gets dark, bedtime happens because it is a certain time. Even if you child is too young to tell time, you can explain how to tell when it is bedtime using a clock. For example, “bedtime is at 8 o’clock. You can tell that it is 8 o’clock because the little hand is at the 8 and the big hand is at the 12.” If your child is having trouble understanding this, you can say something like, “bedtime always happens after I read you a story and you take a bath. It doesn’t matter how light it is outside.”
You may have to repeat the above many, many times. Even after repeating the above statements, your child may still not “get it”. Persist with the routine anyway.
Eventually, the children will become accustomed to the new routine. Usually, this is just about the time that the seasons change, and you’ll have to help them adjust to a new routine. But by that time, you’ll be an expert at helping your children to handle their sleep issues!