How to help your child when the clocks go back?
Autumn is well and truly here, the conkers are on the ground, the leaves have turned a beautiful orange and you may have noticed that the mornings and afternoons are darker. The summer holidays are a distant memory and hopefully bedtime has become business as usual. Then boom! That weekend when the clocks go back is upon us. While the child-free people will enjoy the extra hour of sleep, parents are dreading having to face waking up a whole hour earlier.
Below you will find some tips on how to deal with the time change and how to help your children and family get through it as painlessly as possible.
1. Move the baby’s clock one hour at a time
If your toddler is flexible, you can risk not preparing for the winter time change and simply putting them to sleep at the new time on Sunday the 27th (so, according to their biological clock, it will actually be an hour later than usual) for the nap and for the night. They will surely wake up earlier than before for a few days (just like you will), but after maximum one week, everything should go back to normal.
To help your child switch to winter time, you can wake them up from their nap (if it is necessary), so that their nap lasts more or less the same time as before the time change. In the morning, on the other hand, don’t run to your child as soon as they wake up, but let them lie in their cot for a while – in this way you will communicate to them that it is not yet time to wake up and who knows – they might surprise you and go back to sleep.
2. Gradually move the nap time and bedtime, once every few days
For some children, especially the smaller ones – an hour is a lot. When put to bed later, they may sleep less than before, because they are tired (yes, that’s true – tired children don’t sleep more during the night, but less!!!). Our experience shows that this group includes the majority of children and they are the ones who need a more structured approach, i.e. a little more planning and preparation before the time change.
In this case, start preparing for the time change even one or two weeks before. Move the nap time and bedtime gradually by 10, 15 or 30 minutes once every few days. So when the time change comes, your little ones will be ready for it and will nearly immediately follow the new routine or will only need a couple of days to adjust to it.
3. Accept the early waking and enjoy the extra hour in the evening to yourself
Not many parents say that their child gets up too late in the morning J But surely some of you feel that your offspring go to bed too late in the evening. Make the most of the time change to switch your child’s daily schedule to a more convenient one for you. Accept the early waking, but put your child to sleep one hour earlier in the evening and enjoy the additional hour to yourself.
Waking up earlier and going to bed earlier is a good solution for families where one or both parents get back late from work. If you are looking for the best time to play with your child during the day it would be in the morning when children are full of energy, happy and well-rested. If it is the mum who takes care of the child at home, maybe the dad could start the day with the child an hour earlier? In the evening, it is easy to overlook the fact that the child is tired and ready for bed, because they are very excited about their parent coming home from work. Use the time in the evening for quiet play and winding down and go crazy in the morning!
4. Don’t change anything – let your child have two plans for two seasons!
We met some families in my life who preferred this way. It was a result of two things. First of all, their children, usually more sensitive, reacted very badly to time change. They would have a hard time accepting the new daily plan, because their biological clock would continue ticking according to the old hours. The new plan would take days, even weeks, to adapt to the child’s needs. Secondly, it was more convenient to put the children to bed one hour later in summer and one hour earlier in winter.
It is a less typical way of changing your daily routine and it is unlikely to work if your baby goes to a nursery or pre-school, where a fixed daily schedule is in action. If they are at home with you, it is maybe a solution worth considering. When the summer time change comes, you will go back to putting your baby to sleep later and will enjoy the fact they will sleep one hour longer than other children! J
Fingers crossed for the time change to be swift and painless for your family. And if there are any problems, you know where to find us! J