7 Top Tips to Help Your Kids “Spring Forward”

7 Top Tips to Help Your Kids “Spring Forward”

Use these hints to help your family adjust to the upcoming time change.

By Heather Chaet

Ask a mom what she cherishes most. After “family” and “good health,” we’re betting the next answer would be “a good night’s sleep.” Sleep is the thing all of us can’t seem to get enough. It’s the essential life element that, when it’s less than stellar, wreaks havoc and chaos of epic proportions. It’s the wondrous elixir that can morph a tantrum-throwing toddler into a smiling, calm child.

Yes, we moms do everything in our power to enforce good sleeping habits within our homes. But then, twice a year, that whole sleep routine gets thrown off for daylight saving time -- when we either “fall back” or “spring forward” an hour. It’s as if that one-hour shift, that mere 60-minute gain or loss, carries magical powers. Days after the time change, our family members roam around like sleep-deprived, cranky zombies.

We hate to break it to you, but the next daylight saving time is right around the corner. On March 8, we will again “spring forward.” Thankfully, we have 7 expert tips to help all of our families adjust to the time change.

1. Don’t underestimate the impact.
We may think one hour of sleep isn’t that big of a deal, but research from The Better Sleep Council shows that 61 percent of Americans feel the effects of the “lost hour” the Monday after resetting their clocks, and 39 percent are in a worse mood following the time change. This time shift effect is magnified in our kids. “Be on the lookout for behavioral changes in your kids during the days following a time change,” says clinical psychologist Ben Michaelis, PhD. “Even though an hour may not feel like much to you, it can have a big impact on your little one's mood and behavior.”

2. Plan ahead.
Try to minimize the affects of “losing” an hour of sleep by easing into the shift. Plan ahead and give your family a "break-in" period. “Help your body begin adjusting,” advises Mary Ellen Wells, the director of the Neurodiagnostics and Sleep Science Program at University of North Carolina’s School of Medicine. “Make the shift earlier by starting on the Friday before the time change. Shift your wakeup time 20 minutes early, then one hour early over the weekend.”

Michaelis agrees: “A gradual approach is the best approach for getting children to adjust to the time change.” In the days leading up to the time change, he suggests altering their bedtime by about 15 minutes each night so they can adjust slowly.

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3. Get some sunshine.
Part of what helps you fall asleep and feel rested has to do with your body's circadian rhythm, which is affected by the combination of light and dark you are exposed to each day. “Get some sunshine, especially in the morning hours,” says Wells. “It has amazing positive effects on regulating sleep/wake cycles -- but don't forget the UV protection.”

4. Try other methods to stay alert.
If you find that you or your kids are dragging midday, don’t switch the time you wake up or head to bed. Instead, use other tricks to help your body cope with the adjustment. Naps aren’t a bad choice, but avoid sleeping more than 20 minutes and don’t take that mini-snooze too close to bedtime. Another great option to boost an afternoon slump? Get everyone outside for a brisk walk (which also helps with no. 3!).


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5. Have a relaxing (and unplugged) sleep routine.
“Creating and maintaining a routine is important,” says Wells. “Do something relaxing and limit the use of electronic devices before bedtime, especially while you adjust to the new time.”

Consistency is key. Even though you may relish the opportunity to sleep in and stay up late on the weekends, avoid disrupting your usual bedtime schedule until your body adjusts to the time change. And when it comes to the kids, avoid any special Saturday night family movie marathons for a while after you “spring forward.”

6. Be patient.
Forty percent of Americans need a week or more to feel normal again after losing the hour, according to The Better Sleep Council. “During the ‘spring forward’ daylight saving shift, it generally takes about five days or a week for most people to get into a new sleeping pattern, and patience is key for coping,” says Wells.

This is particularly true when dealing with kids, Michaelis notes. “If your kids are old enough to understand the concept of a time change, feel free to talk to them about it,” he says. “But, for little ones, just be the warm and understanding parent that you usually are until they can catch up.”

7. If you can’t sleep, get out of bed!
Whether it’s due to those daily worries or anxious thoughts or time changes, sometimes we moms wake up and just can’t fall back asleep. Tossing and turning doesn’t help anyone get some Zs. If you haven’t been able to fall back asleep after 20 minutes, don’t keep staring at the clock. Get out of bed and change locations. Drink a glass of water, read a bit on the living room couch, and watch yourself slowly head back to Sleepyville.

How do you cope with the ”spring forward” time change?

Heather Chaet documents her mini parenting successes, epic mommy fails, and everything in between for a plethora (love that word!) of publications and websites such as CafeMom, New York Family, and AdWeek. While her online persona is found at heatherchaet.com, Heather lives in New York City with her film director husband and one insanely curious, cat-obsessed daughter.

Image ©iStock.com/gpointstudio

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