We all know about the importance of routine with kids.
A set pattern will help a young child understand boundaries and expectations. It will also provide a sense of security and stability. A rock steady foundation rather than not knowing what is due to happen or what is expected of them. It helps them to understand how things work and how they fit into everything. (I’m talking about my 4 and 5 year olds here. This doesn’t really apply so much to older kids.)
As parents, it’s up to us to ensure that there is a routine in place. It’s our role to get them into a pattern of getting up -> having breakfast -> getting ready for school, and also the getting ready for bed routine is a very important one.
For a child, it’s easier to end the day as a wind down rather than as an abrupt end. You can’t go from 60 to zero. You have to work your way down through the gears. (That’s what we use bedtime stories for, a bit of quiet before bed.)
I’m not saying kids should be automatons and we should all robotically ensure every day is the same. That would be bonkers. I’m merely pointing out that a child will have a better idea of the expectations placed upon them (ie, going to bed) if he’s following a familiar path.
Holidays are a problem. We slip into a mind-set of thinking that it will be okay to let them have a late night because it’s the holidays. We believed that it wouldn’t matter if their bedtime was put back for a couple of hours while they are off school.
Holidays – such as the Christmas break we’ve just had – are a hyperactive time of constant excitement and energy. Kids have so much extra stimulus with new toys, going out to places, doing things which are different to normal. School / nursery, complete with discipline & routine, are distant memories. The kids go at 100 miles per hour, the consequence of which is that they burn out.
A late night adds to the imbalance of proceedings. It’s magnified by the fact that a late night by no means results in a lie in the next day. They’re still up at 6.45am, and that period of rest is just lost.
I don’t need to tell you what tiredness means to a young kid. We’ve all seen arguments, tears, tantrums and countless other behavioural traits that we can directly link to a lack of sleep.
Even if a child does sleep in, then it means that you’ve lost the school day routine – the normal routine. Imagine that. You’ve worked hard to get your darling offspring into a pattern where they are able to get up in the morning, function, and get them breakfast, dressed and to school on time. Then you’ve allowed a holiday to disrupt that precious routine.
Back to School
So, what happens on the first day back at school? A battle. All the familiarity of routine is gone. You’re left with a lack of direction and a shapelessness that means that the child needs to be cajoled at every turn because they aren’t running on an established path.
This is what makes the first day back at school so stressful. We all know it. They’re still in holiday mode and it’s up to you to fill the discipline gap that the lack of routine has created.
SleepFoundation.org suggests that kids aged 3 – 5 need 10 to 13 hours sleep a night. We aim for 12 hours per night (7pm to 7am). It makes sense for us, as parents, to stick to that during holidays too. They’re still developing, even if they’re not at school. You don’t want your child’s return to education to be side-tracked. The first few days can be long enough after a holiday without the sleep disruption factor being thrown in too.
So, stick to your guns! Cherish the benefits that a good night’s sleep brings to your child.
Plus, and I’ll say this because we’re all thinking it, if they’re in bed, it means that more of your break / holiday is for you. It’s your holiday too! It’s not selfish parenting. It’s good parenting with a bonus!