We are all still in a bit of an unknown situation in terms of when restrictions may be lifted, and ‘normal’ life may start to resume. If the scientific evidence allows, some children may be returning to school in June and therefore we thought we should use this opportunity to talk about how you might start to prepare your school aged child for this in terms of their routine following, what will have been, at least a 10 week break!
If you are anything like us, some later nights and even later wake ups may have started to creep in. So here are our top tips on getting your child ready to return to their routine post lockdown:
Don’t leave it to the last minute:
Obviously we don’t know for sure if some children will return to school in June, however with it already being mid-May it might be worth starting to think about making some small adjustments over the next few weeks in case this does happen. For example, if your little one has been going to bed at around 9pm for a few weeks, try moving bedtime earlier by about 10-15 minutes every 4 days until you’re back to their normal bedtime. 6-13 year old needs an average of at least 10 hours of sleep a night (according to the National Sleep Foundation), so if on a normal school day they need to be up at 7am, they need to be in bed by 9pm. On top of this, it is important to work in some time prior to that for your little one to ‘settle’ into bed. This is even more essential now, as it is highly likely they will start to have some anxieties creep in regarding going back to school and, most of the time, worries like these come to light at bedtime. So, adding in some time to talk through your little one’s thoughts will be vital for them.
If you are considering returning to the office and your little one may need to go to nursery the same rules apply. They are unlikely to be staying up as late as 9pm but even just 30 minutes can make all the difference if you need them to be up earlier to ensure everyone can leave the house. Try moving bedtime earlier by 15 minutes every few days to ensure they wake naturally around the time you need them to be up and be getting ready.
Reboot the bedtime routine:
If you had a good bedtime routine before lockdown began try to re-implement it as much as possible. Familiarity will definitely help your child settle back into their routine quicker and with less resistance than trying out something new. On the other hand, if this is your first attempt at implementing a bedtime routine, a repetitive, predictable bedtime routine can make your life much easier, and bedtime much smoother! When your child’s body and brain start to associate things like baths, stories, brushing teeth, putting on a sleepsuit or pyjamas, all done in the same order at the same time every night, it makes it a lot easier for them to fall asleep (not to mention the scientific benefits of body temperatures and baths for a start)! I can’t recommend bedtime routines highly enough.
Encourage relaxation for active minds:
Returning to school/pre school is bound to trigger some anxiety for some children. They have had a long time at home with their family and although they will have no doubt missed their friends, the return to some sort of ‘normality’ may still be something that they are nervous about. There are some great resources available for older children to access. https://www.relaxkids.com/ has some fantastic relaxation exercises and activities which can easily be incorporated into the bedtime routine for preschoolers and older. For older children, aged 6-12, we highly recommend the https://happyselfjournal.com/ which is aimed at promoting mental wellbeing, using mindfulness and other talking points to nurture children.
Rein in the screen time:
We all know that juggling everything during lockdown, including childcare, home schooling, work and general household chores is exhausting. Screen time can be a really useful tool to entertain children for short periods of time – as well as providing parents with a break! Therefore, we’ve probably all been a little more relaxed about screen time.
The difficulty with screens before bed, whether they are phones, TVs, computers, or tablets, is that they emit a lot of blue light. Our brains (and our ‘awake hormone’ serotonin) are stimulated by the blue light and this will also prevent the ‘sleepy hormone’ (melatonin) being secreted. I always recommend at least an hour of screen free time (ideally two) before bedtime to allow your little one’s melatonin to increase which will allow their body to prepare for sleep more readily. Screens have also been vital for all of us, but especially older children, in terms of keeping in touch with their friends during lockdown. This also applies to younger children, ensure the tv is not on in the room in that hour before bed and try to resist the urge to Facetime grandma or other relatives to say ‘goodnight’ as even those screens will have the same impact.
If your child is older, and the thought of giving up their phone may mean they will miss out on vital ‘chat’ with their friends, try to enlist their friend’s parents too. If there are a few children not up late ‘chatting’ it makes it a lot more bearable for your child if they are not the only one missing out!
The darker the better:
Another point regarding our awake hormone, UV light from the sun also stimulates serotonin. Therefore, ensure your child’s bedroom is as dark as possible when they go to bed, especially with the evenings growing ever lighter. Investing in a good black out blind or even just using blackout card/film, can make all the difference in how easily children can settle at bedtime.
Finally, if your routine and parenting style has been more relaxed during lockdown, when making some changes in preparation for if/when lockdown is relaxed, don’t expect your child to accept these changes without argument! Start small, building up the changes so that they don’t feel like they are having ‘the rug ripped from under them’. That, in itself, will be enough to spark some anxiety, so take it steady – we have a little while before anything is going to change. When you do make any changes, however, remain consistent so that your child understands that this is the way things are going to be from now on – and bedtime will be much easier as a result.
If you are struggling with your child’s sleep – please do get in touch. We work with children up to the age of 10 and would love to help you guide your child towards their independent sleep skills – which are vital to their health, development and learning capabilities!