Sleep: The most precious commodity to parents and caregivers the world over! While some kids graduate from infanthood with an innate ability to string together hours upon hours of a good night’s rest, for others, it’s an allusive challenge that continues for years. Whether your child regularly sleeps through the night or not, most of us have felt the havoc a time change can reap on a household.
Children—and especially children with special needs, such as Autism—thrive on routines and rest. While the Daylight Saving time change can throw both a little off kilter, it doesn’t have to be a major upset. From our ABA therapists, here are a few tips for a smoother adjustment to Daylight Saving Time.
Make the Change Gradually
No one likes abrupt change (not kids or adults). But with a little forethought, we can ease the “spring forward” transition so that kiddos (and you!) don’t feel it quite so acutely. Start adjusting your child’s bedtime and/or wakeup time about four days prior to the time change. Move bedtime up about 15 minutes at a time over the course of a few days so the change doesn’t feel quite so abrupt.
If you have an older kid who is a wiz at telling time and doesn’t appreciate going to bed early, focus instead of making small changes to his or her wake up time.
If you’re the parent of a child with special needs, you probably already know this. Kids thrive on routine, and the closer you can stick to it, the more comfortable your child will be and the smoother the time change will go. A solid bedtime routine can help a child calm down and relax, even if it’s at an earlier hour. Likewise, a great morning routine (check out this blog for a few tips) can help get a child up and moving, even if he or she is still feeling a little sluggish.
And routines aren’t just for mornings and evenings. To the extent possible, stick with routines around mealtimes, too, to keep the day running smoothly. A routine is not quite the same thing as a schedule – make sure to adjust times as needed to avoid your kiddo getting hungry (which rarely leads to best behavior from any of us).
Use External Cues
As an ABA therapy center, we’re big fans of visual cues! One of the biggest challenges with Daylight Saving Time is that extended brightness into the evening. Use the lighting in your house as a cue for both bedtime and morning. Start dimming the lights (especially in your child’s room) and shut off electronics about an hour before bed to help ease the transition to sleep. If you have them, we recommend using blackout curtains to help hide away that last bit of daylight that may still stick around after your kiddo’s bedtime.
In the morning, do just the opposite. Turn on the lights in the house nice and bright to help your body get the signal that it’s daytime!
…with your children and yourself. We recommend not making any big plans for the day after a time change. Even with the best planning and preparation, you or your child might still be a little tired, and we know we’re never our best when we aren’t fully rested. Expect it to take about a week before everyone’s fully adjusted, and give yourself and your child a little extra grace.
Check out our blog for more tips and ideas for navigating life with a child with special needs. If you’re looking for an applied behavior analysis (ABA) therapy provider, we’d love to help! Give us a call at 770-250-0093.