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Back To School: Tips For Getting Kids Back On A Sleep Schedule

First Posted: 08/11/2011 11:01 am Updated: 10/11/2011 5:12 am

Kids And Sleep
Credit: Siri Stafford

It was many, many years ago when you were known as the "fifth Beatle" and traveling India in search of enlightenment.

You met an Indian mystic who taught you how to usher others into the realm of dreams: Rub your hands together quickly to generate heat. Then gently massage the sides of the person's head. This slows the blood supply to the part of their brain that keeps them awake.

However, you must do it gently, lest you put the person to sleep for a week.

Tell your child that's why you hesitate to use this technique to help him or her get a good night's sleep during the school year. "Remember what happened two years ago?" you ask. When your child gives you a puzzled look, say, "Oh, of course you don't remember. You were asleep that whole week."

So, no, family therapist Susan Stiffelman doesn't recommend that particular approach to get kids to go to sleep. Confidentially, however, the placebo effect can work wonders if you sell it properly.

Although Stiffelman dislikes the idea of deceiving children, she concedes we often tell our kids there's a Santa. And massaging a child's temples might have some validity.

"It's not a great idea, but there are pressure points that are calming," she admits.

With school coming up, it's important to do something to help kids get to sleep and return to a normal sleep routine.

"You should start in advance," Stiffelman says. Then expect to fail.

"That's not going to really work," she says. "Your child is going to be cranky the first week of school. That's reality, and I tend to favor reality."

Still, you can try. Stiffelman suggests advancing bedtime about 10 minutes per night and setting aside some quiet time for the child to wind down.

That means quiet time should apply to grown-ups, as well.

The important thing, she says, is to avoid power struggles.

"Come alongside rather than come at your child," Stiffelman says.

Try asking the child for his or her own opinions on winding down and bedtime, suggests, or ask how he or she feels about adjusting to the school year.

Or you could follow kindergarten teacher Karen McEwan's advice: Bed means bed.

"Putting on the pajamas first, followed by leaving the bedroom to brush teeth and kiss you goodnight qualifies as back tracking," the Portland, Ore., educator says. "It is confusing and does not continue the forward motion to bed."

Don't overlook eating habits, says Amy Wickstrom, a family therapist, blogger and mother of two. Wickstrom writes the blog More Than a Toy.

"For many American kids, eating habits tend to suffer over the summer," she adds. "To help your child sleep well, pay attention to what your child eats during the second half of the day, and try to ensure that your child is consuming healthy foods."

Like sauerkraut juice.

Take a tablespoon of water and throw in just enough sauerkraut juice to throw off the taste and make it yucky -- like medicine. Then tell your child it is a form of Army nerve gas in liquified form. In just the right quantity, mixed appropriately, it is the world's most powerful sleep aid.

You acquired some during your days as a solider of fortune.

Then you ... oh, all right. Experts agree. Giving your children quiet time is a better idea than lying to them. Some people want to take all the fun out of parenting.


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Filed by Jason St. Angelo  |