SILVER SPRING, Md, March 7, 2013 – It comes around twice a year, the switching of our clocks to adjust for daylight saving time. While it is difficult enough for adults to get their schedules back on track, it is even more challenging with young children. Just when you think you have a good routine established, it goes out the window when the clocks change, and you can be left struggling with late bedtimes and or early mornings. But it does not have to be that way.
If you can plan ahead, about a week, you can gradually adjust the schedule. Try moving your evening routine 15 minutes every two days. If you are preparing to jump forward, shift the time later; if you are preparing to fall back, slide bedtime earlier.
While shifting bedtime might be an obvious solution, do not forget to shift all the other aspects of your child’s schedule as well, naps, meals, bath time, etc. If your child is in daycare, this gradual shifting of every facet of the routine is probably not viable. Take control of the pieces you can and gradually shift them, especially evening events that help set the foundation leading up to bedtime. Feed your child earlier so that the same amount of time between dinner and bedtime stays constant.
Using room darkening curtains or blinds can also make a huge difference. If your child wakes with the sun and it is rising an hour earlier, they can help you get that extra sleep. Similarly, what toddler wants to go to bed when it’s still bright outside and he can play? Those room darkening blinds can create the illusion of night once the sun lasts past bedtime.
If the time change caught you off guard, or if you cannot prepare for the time change ahead of schedule, you can either try shifting the schedule over the course of the next week, or you can attempt to force the change all at once. That means waking your sleeping baby an hour before his body clock would wake him naturally when falling back and putting your awake baby in his crib at a time he thinks is an hour early when springing forward. Both of these efforts can have negative side effects. A baby who does not get enough sleep can be fussy and temperamental all day. Trying to force your child to go to sleep an hour early can result in tantrums and wailing from the crib unless you have successfully worn you child out during the course of the day so he is more tired than normal and ready for an earlier bedtime.
There is one other possibility to dealing with a time change. Do nothing. While that may sound counterintuitive, for some parents this may be not only an option, but a solution to other problems they have been having. If you have been trying to establish an earlier bed time, then the fall back will help you move the bed time earlier with minimal fusing. Similarly, if you want to get in the habit of starting your day later, the spring time change can help you do this. Just remember that while the time changes can help you shift bedtimes or waking times, to maintain the shift, you need to shift the rest of the schedule as well, and then be consistent.
Each child will react differently to the change in time. After one or two shifts, you should have a feel for how long it takes your child to adapt to the new time and be able to plan accordingly for future shifts.
Follow Brighid on Twitter a @BrighidMoret and receive updates when new columns post on Facebook or Google+.. Read more about first time parenting issues in Parenting the First Time Through at The Communities at The Washington Times.
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