Seriously, it’s cruel.
Just because the clock on the wall changes doesn’t mean our body clocks can adjust as easily. And if you got kids, forget about it! It’s amazing to me how one little hour of the day can feel like an entire time zone shift for young children.
Thanks to spring forward kids don’t want to go to sleep at night and don’t want to rise in the morning. It’s like the perfect storm of parenting since parents are bone weary anyway. Getting a child to bed on a “normal” day can be extensive. Throw in some extra sunshine and it is darn near impossible.
Of course, parents have been known to go to exhausting lengths to outsmart Mother Nature. Some families plan ahead and hang room darkening drapes every spring. Which is brilliant until your child is in school and the teacher insists on teaching them how to tell time.
But you can use this to your advantage. You might be able to convince your child that it’s the sun that’s confused. Shrug your shoulders and feign ignorance. “See”, you can say, “it’s weird I know but the clock says its 7:00. So you hafta go to bed now.”
Wait! What? you ask... Yes! I put my little people to bed at 7:00 p.m. so what? Cut me some slack. Without an early bedtime I would never get a moment to myself.
However the tradeoff is that I have early risers. This is, of course, a huge price to pay but don’t worry about me. I invested in a fancy coffee pot with a delay brew feature. I can pound the caffeine as soon as the alarm goes off.
So here we are in the early days of spring forward and my kids have noticed it is as black as night when I wake them. Now they don’t believe me when I tell them it’s time to rise and shine. They pull the covers over their head and ignore me (which is really annoying because nobody wanted to stay in bed more than me). I’m barely awake and functioning myself. How can I be expected to effectively be in charge of getting other people up and moving?
When children grow up and get wise to the time change, the clock is no longer your ally. You can tell them it’s bedtime but they understand, due to their now enhanced brain development and critical thinking, that just exactly 24 hours ago it was not time for bed. You can say, “Look the clock says bedtime!” But they’re too smart and will say “Not really. Really it’s 6:00.”
What? You make your older kids go to bed at 7:00? No, I just wish I could make them.
I’m often asked by parents for tips on how to best survive the time change and I always offer the same advice; good luck. Other than sheer dumb luck there’s not much you can do. This is a point of contention for some parents as they just desperately want to find a fix for this frustrating season.
But sometimes that’s not possible.
You can try to outsmart the sun, adjust the light in your child’s room and even manipulate the clocks in your house but the bottom line is you cannot set, trick or control your child’s internal rhythms.
My best advice? Survive. Survive with coffee, naps, power drinks or whatever it is that you need to do stay in touch with your inner patience reservoir. Then rest assured knowing that if you can get by for a few days (or weeks if you’re unlucky) that your child will, at some point, adjust to the time change. Even if it’s about the time the school year is ending and summer looms on the horizon.
You know summer: long days poolside and Bar-B-Qs, after dinner walks and catching fireflies in the yard, washing your feet in the tub before you crawl into bed and sun-kissed noses.
You see turning the clocks forward an hour may be taxing on your weary soul today but it is a sign that warmer, longer days are ahead. And that’s a change worth looking forward to. Why? Because I’m the mom and I said so! That’s why!
Stephanie is a Parent Educator for the Monmouth-Roseville School District and a mother to five children. She has effectively tricked each one of them into believing that early bedtimes are required of all the children of the world. She can be reached at by email at ssikorski(at)mr238.org This article appears as a part of my weekly Practical Parenting series for the Daily Review Atlas.