Welcome to June, where gloriously long days can sometimes lead to painfully short nights.
One client wrote to tell me she felt like a “monster” making your preschooler stop playing and come inside to go to bed when all the other neighborhood kids were still out playing in the sunlight.
If you’re having this feeling too, and I say this lovingly, you need to get over it.
It’s not you fault that days are so long right now. And if your child doesn’t get enough time in bed, the whole family will suffer. Your child most of all.
So sit with those feelings of being the meanest parent on the planet for a few minutes and then let them go. They are not helping you or your child.
Your child may think you are mean but they will certainly feel better with more sleep.
The brain needs darkness to help it produce melatonin (naturally), so plan ahead that your child may need a longer wind down time during the summer months.
While I normally don’t recommend a bath every single night (unless families prefer it), a bath, especially with lower-than-normal lighting may help your child fall asleep more quickly when bedtime rolls around. It’s also helpful for removing all that sunscreen, bug spray, and sweat that can accumulate in summer months.
Black out shades or curtains are more important than ever during summer months. (I’m actually thinking of adding blackout curtains on top of our blackout shades in order to really seal out all the little cracks of light that still come in.) If you have held off investing in either, please do so now. And if you have cracks of light coming in, look for ways to seal those off, like cut up strips of cheap blackout shades. The darker, the better.
Unless your child is 2.5 years or older and has a fear of the dark, don’t bother with a nightlight. Children younger than 2.5 don’t have the intellectual capacity to have a fear of the dark. And regardless of age, a nightlight makes it more challenging for the brain to produce melatonin naturally, which aids the body in falling asleep. The darker the better.
If your child tends to sleep late in the mornings – and most young children don’t – make sure to wake them up at about the same time every day. This will also make bedtime easier.
If your child is an early waker, don’t reward them with attention before 6 am. You may need to work gradually towards a goal of 6 am if they are currently waking up much earlier.
At about 2.5 years old, children can understand an Ok to Wake Clock. (My favorite is the Hatch Rest.)
Many parents tell me that their children ignore their OK to Wake Clocks.
Of course they do.
Children only cooperate with their OK to Wake Clocks if parents insist on it. Otherwise, children prefer to be with their parents or watching TV or doing something else much more fun than staying in their rooms.
So if your child comes out of their room before the OK to Wake Clock says it’s time, escort them back to their rooms. In the most boring, least-engaged manner possible.
Don’t allow screen time or food or playing with toys before the approved wake time.
Over time, this will lead to later wake times, as will the earlier bedtime.
Make sure any middle of the night wakings are treated in the most boring way possible also.
Long days can make bedtime more challenging but loving parents, you can succeed in getting your child well rested again.
If you’d like help getting your child’s sleep back on track (or on track for the first time), schedule a complimentary sleep consultation.
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Abby Wolfson is a pediatric nurse practitioner, certified child sleep consultant and certified life coach for parents. She divides her time between Brooklyn, NY and San Miguel de Allende, Mexico.