The long summer holiday has been the perfect excuse to throw in the routine and mix it up a little bit. After the past 18 months, there was nothing our children needed more than fun and games, without having to worry about bubbles, isolation and homeschooling.
In doing so, many will now be out of their usual routines, including bedtime. With back to school fast approaching, now is a good time to start thinking about getting to grips with slowly bringing that routine back.
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Research tells us that having a routine helps us sleep better and we also know there is a strong link between the amount of sleep that a child gets, and their ability to cope with school the next day, from their attention span, temperament, and overall wellbeing and behaviour.
Routine is king when it comes to surviving the next school term. Parent and baby coach, Heidi Skudder, has shared some top tips to help you slowly nudge your little people back to earlier bedtimes and full, rested nights of sleep.
Heidi recommends getting your child into a sleep routine before summer ends
1) Decide on a set bedtime again
Chances are that during the holidays you have been flexible, but now is the time to sync their body clock again. When our body understands that we go to bed at the same time each day, it makes sleep easier!
Adjust your child's bedtime depending on their age; I would be aiming for a solid 12 hours of sleep until at least four years of age, and no less than 10 to 11 hours above that.
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2) Slowly adjust until you meet your favoured bedtime again
Going from 10pm to 7.30pm on the first night is not going to happen, so adjust every couple of days in the run-up to going back to school, ideally having a few full night's sleep at the new time before school starts again.
This allows the body to catch up on all of that lost sleep, which will be much needed to prepare your little ones for their new school term.
Sleep is important for your child's energy levels at school
3) Remember that for lots of children, there are big changes when starting a new school year
Whether it's making new friends, adjusting to a new teacher or possibly even a new school altogether, your child is facing some big changes. This can cause all sorts of emotions to come up, potentially affecting their sleep.
If your child feels emotionally connected to you, they are much more likely to talk to you about how they feel and therefore open up about any concerns or worries they have.
Setting time aside during your daytime to chat, talk, cuddle and be close will help open up the gateways to these feelings coming out. As you build up this connection, you can start to ask how they are feeling about the upcoming school year, and let them know that you are very much there for them.
4) Sleep helps a child's immune system
Heading back to school often means mixing once again with a whole array of germs and bugs that get passed quickly through the school. Although (hopefully) the weather will still be warm, know that sleep does wonders for your child's immunity.
Getting in those extra hours in the run-up to going back to school will give their immune system the boost it needs. That, plus some added probiotics and multivitamins is the perfect combination to help your child be school-ready.
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Mindfulness can help a child wind down for sleep
5) Introduce mindfulness into your child's bedtime routine
If your child is old enough to understand and sit still, then the concept of mindfulness is a brilliant way of bringing some relaxation and calm time into your bedtime routine.
Practising breathing and calming down using a kids' mindful app or children's yoga is a great addition to any bedtime routine.
It also allows you to slow down and enjoy those last minutes of the day with them – a relaxed and unrushed bedtime routine is much more beneficial than a hurried and stressed one!
As school starts up again, remember that there may be some disruption to sleep given the changes that your child is doing through. Being supportive and understanding of their feelings is going to be the very best skill you can use as a parent in those early weeks to ease the transition.
By ensuring that your child feels able to talk to you about any emotion they are experiencing, you are boosting not only their self-esteem and confidence, but in turn helping them get that all-important shut-eye too, which is vital for school performance and coping with the new term ahead.
Heidi runs The Parent and Baby Coach - a sleep consultancy business as well as parenting advice on other topics including digital parenting and emotional connection. Visit theparentandbabycoach.com for more information.