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SUMMER BEDTIMES

Most parents have a fixed bedtime rule during the school year. What do you do when school’s out? If you let the kids stay up all hours in the summer, what happens next fall? How do you go back to the earlier bedtime?

I favor both fixed bedtimes on school days AND later bedtimes in the summer. Summer is a time for kids (and parents) to relax a bit.

SCHOOL YEAR

Children should have a fixed bedtime on school nights. This is partly determined by the child’s age. Your kindergartner needs more sleep than your 10-year-old.

Bedtime is best preceded by a quiet hour to prepare the children for sleep. Bedtime rituals are important for all of us to get our bodies ready for sleep. It didn’t matter so much when we lived in caves; we went to sleep when it got dark (or the fire went out). But in the artificial light in which we all live today changing to pajamas, brushing our teeth, and turning down the bedclothes alert our brains and bodies that sleep comes next.

However it’s OK to relax a bit on Friday and Saturday. We did at our house. The children could stay up a couple of hours later. This was a time for little family projects like baking cookies or wrapping presents.

We had a special Sunday night bedtime ritual called “Getting Ready for the Week Ahead.” I got out the calendar and we discussed with the children what was coming up: dentist appointment, school play, etc. to remind and prepare them. This was followed by the getting-ready-for-bed routine. And because we considered Sunday a school night the children went to bed at the usual time.

SUMMER

The rotation of Planet Earth means there are more hours of daylight now and your kids know it. Bedtime can be a couple of hours later. I would not permit bedtime anarchy in the summer. Don’t let the kids stay up so late so they are impossibly cranky the next day. I would also maintain a pre-bedtime ritual.

What happens in the fall? A week or so before school starts make a big fuss about it. SCHOOL KIDS ALL HAVE TO GO TO BED EARLY SO THEY CAN GET UP FOR SCHOOL!

Resume the school bedtime a few days before the actual day to give the children a chance to adjust. Use the same ritual except now it includes laying out school clothes and supplies, getting permission slips.

Kids not sleepy? Recite the rule: On a school night you must stay quietly in bed until you fall asleep.

I admit I am pretty compulsive about bedtime on a school night. Our world is structured on an eight-to-five model. All children, including the owls have to get up at an early hour to go to school. Children who are too sleepy or hungry to function at school are not well served by the parents.

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