PEP Blog


Preparing Kids to “Spring Forward”

By Elizabeth Gelfeld

With the start of Daylight Saving Time, we’ll have an extra hour of light for outdoor play in the evening, in exchange for the hour of sleep lost this weekend. To help families prepare, we’re re-posting these suggestions from PEP leaders and other experts we published two years ago. This year, you can bring your young children to the Can Do Kids Fair on Saturday and then take them home happily tired and (maybe) ready for an earlier bedtime. Also, remember that the time change is a good reminder to check and change the batteries in your smoke detectors.

Of the two time changes each year, the “fall back” one is definitely easier. Who could complain about an extra hour of sleep? Spring is a different matter. Just when high-school kids can finally board the school bus after dawn, and while it still gets dark by the time younger children go to bed, now we all have to “spring forward” and lose that precious hour.

The National Sleep Foundation has some tips for parents, reported by Vincent Iannelli, M.D., to prepare their children and themselves.

You can make the transition easier, says NSF sleep expert Jodi Mindell, Ph.D., if you do it gradually—starting this Thursday night—and if you maintain your child’s regular sleeping and waking times, even though your child might be extra cranky for a few days.I do not want to sleep

Here are some more tips:

  • With preschool-age children, just adjust bedtime without calling attention to it. Start the bedtime routine 15 minutes earlier each night, beginning Thursday. On Sunday, set your clocks forward during the afternoon, so that dinner and bedtime are on the new time and there’s no trying to get your child to go to sleep an hour early. And take care of your own sleep needs, says Dr. Iannelli: “As many parents know, additional sleep deprivation is not something they can afford.”
  • With school-age children and teens, it can help to have a conversation about the effects of light on human bodies and moods, as long as you don’t lecture. “Just recognize there’s an impact. It’s a training opportunity,” says Robbye Fox, a leader of PEP’s Thriving with Teens classes. Her 17-year-old daughter recently brought up the subject. “She got an email about a volunteer job she’s doing on Sunday: ‘Don’t forget to spring forward,’ and so we talked about it.”

Stephanie Brown, a leader of PEP I and PEP II classes as well as Thriving with Teens, says parents should keep in mind that the adjustment will take time, especially for teenagers. “You can suggest to them that they might want to set up a reminder system on Saturday,” she says.

“We don’t do anything,” says Carol Hoffman, a leader of classes for parents of school-age children. She and her husband, Micah, who also has led PEP classes, leave it up to their 13-year-old son and 11-year-old daughter to prepare for the time change. “They’ve been setting their own alarm clocks for years.” Carol adds that they do get help from the family cats, who will expect to be fed at their usual breakfast time. “Our cats know that when our alarm goes off, we should be up to feed them.”

As with most things, what parents do will influence kids more than what they say. “Definitely model it,” says Robbye. “Tell them, ‘I’m going to go to bed a half-hour earlier.’ ” And then, do it.

If you can be proactive and make the change gradually, the NSF says, it might be easier. However, if you just set your clocks forward and hope for the best, within a week everyone will adjust.

Elizabeth Gelfeld is a PEP Parent Educator and editor of the PEP Blog.

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Parent Encouragement Program
10100 Connecticut Ave.
Kensington, MD 20895

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