How Parents Can Prep Kids for Daylight Savings Time

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Handling Daylight Savings Time with grace can be a lifelong struggle, but it’s often hardest on the littlest ones who need the most sleep.

We spoke to Dr. Jack Maypole, a pediatrician at Boston Medical Center and member of The Goddard School’s Educational Advisory Board, about tips for parents as they help their kids adjust to the time change this Sunday, Nov. 5.

As a father of three, Maypole says he used these approaches with his children:

  1. Begin the sleep transition before Daylight Savings Time. About 5-7 days out from the clock change (Oct. 29-Nov. 1 this year), begin a nightly shift of going to bed earlier for a child. This gradual adjustment will make the time change feel less drastic for your little one.
  2. Have a set ritual for bedtime and stick to it. Bedtime rituals help a child recognize when it is time to wind down, and this ritual can help get a child into a ‘sleepy time mindset’ for an earlier bedtime.

What is a bedtime ritual? 

A bedtime ritual is what we all think about in terms of ‘getting ready for bed,’ the fun part.

Taking a bath or warm shower, getting on fresh pajamas and doing a regime of things with your parents or caretakers that are fun and mellow and calming before bed. Massaging in skin cream? Nice. Reading a bedtime story? Excellent. Thinking of a nice thing to be thankful for before sleep? Great. Prayers for those who do? Perfect. These milestones in the schedule mentally prepare a child for going to sleep, chilling out and feeling the love as they hit the hay for the day.

Why is DST challenging for parents? Why is it challenging for children? 

It is probably less challenging for parents because of our morning rituals, including playing upbeat music, working out or my beverage of choice, coffee.

It is challenging for kids for reasons previously stated. It is challenging for everybody because in November, beds are cozy and the world is colder. Who wants to get out of warm sheets when our brains are used to an extra hour of sleep? Stealth shifting of the schedule in advance lessens the impact.

  1. Adjust daytime routines to expend your child’s extra energy. By reducing naptimes and encouraging high-energy pre-dinner activities like playing outside or building a fort, your child will be tuckered out earlier and ready for their new bedtime.
  2. Anticipate your child may be cranky on transition days. Daylight Savings Time is an adjustment for everyone, especially small children. Understand that your child may be grumpy with sleep fatigue during the transition, and exercise patience and support as they adjust to their new schedule.

Parents can find age-appropriate bedtime recommendations at healthychildren.org or drgreene.com.

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