It’s that dreaded moment: the aftermath of too many sleepovers, movie marathons, lunch at 3:00 in the afternoon and pajamas until noon. Whether it’s summer break or the holidays, vacation is to structure what an overload of sugar is to your child’s diet. When it’s all over, they’re tired and cranky. You’re in for a major meltdown, and all you can do is stand by and watch it unfold.
But maybe, just maybe, there’s a better way. We’ve uncovered some tips and tricks that will get your kids back on schedule and keep the madness in check.
Bring back bedtime.
Once you get bedtime back on track, the rest is easy. Begin by making bedtime 15 minutes earlier per night, starting several days before they go back to school. By the time vacation is over, they’ll at least be closer to their ideal sleep schedule and more alert and awake in time for school.
And who says bedtime has to be boring? Make it a fun, yet relaxing routine. Read a book, talk a little about the day and practice the 4-7-8 breathing technique together: Breathe in for a count of four, then hold for a count of seven and release for a count of eight. Repeat four times before you say goodnight.
Give electronics a bedtime, too.
Electronics should be put to sleep at least an hour before your little one. Close the laptops, shut off the tablets and smartphones, and stow them out of reach until the morning. And don’t forget the television! That too emits blue light, which is a no-no for good sleep.
Rise and shine ahead of time.
If your children have a difficult time going to bed earlier, start getting them up an hour earlier starting a week or so before school starts. If your sleepyhead won’t get up, try letting in the morning light and having a favorite breakfast treat ready and waiting.
Get moving and grooving.
One of the best ways to get kids to bed earlier is to wear them out. Take a walk or bike ride after dinner. Skate around the driveway. Or, if the weather is bad, start an impromptu dance party in the living room. The idea is to release stress, burn off energy and create a habit of healthy exercise they can maintain the whole year through.
Put a cap on caffeine.
Caffeine in foods and drinks like soda, chocolate and energy drinks can stay in your child’s system for as long as 8 to 10 hours, impeding their ability to fall and stay asleep. If they won’t give up their favorite caffeinated treats, just limit the quantity and make lunchtime the cut-off.
Say no to late-day naps.
Everyone needs a nap now and then, especially children. You don’t want to cut them out altogether, especially if your child is miserable and cranky. With that in mind, limit naps to no later than early afternoon, and make them a bit shorter than usual. A quick 30-45 minute nap will often be enough to get your child recharged for the next few hours. If another nap seems imminent, go outside together, play a game or just get moving—anything to stay awake until bedtime.
Hang in there.
With a little planning, you should be able to avoid the worst of the major meltdowns. But if all else fails, remember that your child’s body is a fine-tuned machine and will eventually get back on schedule—even if it means a few miserable days for everyone. So relax, keep a sense of humor, and remember that soon enough you’ll all be back on track.