What Vacation a Week Before School Did to My Kids

Getting Their Sleep Back On Track

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The week before school started we went on a vacation with my sister’s kids who are 10 and 13 years old and are much more used to staying up late (and can). My kids (4 and 6 yrs old), well, they usually go to bed between 6:00 and 6:30pm and sleep for a good 12 hours.

On this trip, they were troopers and stayed up until 8:00 or 9:00pm EVERY night. Sometimes they had an hour nap late in the day and sometimes not. They did great, but they were also looney tunes!

To add to the their craze, they were still getting up at 6/6:30am every morning! Not to mention a few times in the middle of the night where they often ended up in bed with us. Ya know, cause there was a train that ran right behind the house, making the house rattle and a very loud train sound — ALL NIGHT LONG.

The new environment coupled with a lovely train really did them in.

Might I add, my kids almost never sleep in our bed. The exceptions have been hospital visits, new locations that make it somewhat scary for them, or upper respiratory breathing issues (one has viral asthma).

Needless to say they were most definitely overtired only getting 8 or 9 hours of sleep every night for a week. So coming back the Sunday before school started I knew I was in for at least a good week of sleep mayhem.

So, what happened and what did I do?

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On Coming Home

That Sunday night before school started, I really wanted to make sure to get them in bed at a decent hour. But I first had to get them home without falling asleep in the car because then they’d be up even later.

As I saw eyelids starting to fall around 4:30pm in the car, I pulled out the exciting “WAIT!!!… who can find a red car first!?!” And “OOOOHH, I KNOW! Count how many big trucks you see!?!”

I really had to make everything sound exciting to keep them awake, and I’m kinda shocked it worked this time.

We successfully got home without a car nap by 5pm and it was straight to a light snack, bath and pjs. And both were in bed asleep by 6:30pm. Ahhh… back to some normalcy around here.

Nope.

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Here’s What Happened…

I knew I was in for it, but I was kinda hoping for the best. I had a bit of re-training to do. There was no crying involved but a lot of whining in the middle of the night.

By the way, it’s really hard to keep your composure in the middle of the night. I had to heed my own advice I give others.

I had to take a deep breath and think what I want them to do, NOT what I don’t want them to do, which is of course includes wake me up, climb into my bed, lay on top of me, and be up the rest of the night.

Here’s what happened the first week back to school:

  • They Woke Up Several Times in the Middle of the Night.
  • They Wanted to Sleep in My Bed.
  • They Were Scared.

We were all exhausted. And to be honest, I knew they weren’t truly scared any more. We were home. There were no trains or loud noises or weird creaky bunk beds. They were saying they were scared because that’s what they did the week before. And guess what, it got them in bed with us!

They can be quite clever and savvy. Not this time. We needed sleep and sharing a bed with them does not get any of us sleep. We save bedtime snuggles in the morning when we wake up.

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Here’s What I Did…

As with most behavioral challenges, putting boundaries back in place was really important. So, I thought about how I wanted to handle this.

  • I Didn’t Let Them Sleep in My Bed.
  • I’d Lay with Them on Their Beds.
  • We Talked About How Tired We Felt.

That last point about talking together is really the most important one. Something I started a while back was having a little talk with my kids before bedtime in their room after everyone was ready for bed.

We have a Bedtime PowWow where we get to talk about anything — good things or concerns, and we always end on our favorite part of the day.

One of the concerns we talked about is not getting enough sleep and how we can solve this challenge together. Whenever we talk about being tired and trying to find a solution, my kids come up with the best ideas.

They came up with a genius solution of: “I’m not going to come out of my bed and wake you or anyone else up.”

What a fantastic idea! Now, the reality looks a little different because they still came out several times a night the first week. BUT, it got less and less as the week went on. The key was to be consistent on my end and continue these PowWows every night and let them know how great it was that they chose to stay in bed.

Ya, see… when you give your kids freedom to help find solutions and acknowledge their good choice for staying in bed and getting rest, you are also helping build their self-esteem for making good choices.

Your little one’s get to take ownership of those choices and feel good about it. In doing so, you are also helping them strengthen their prefrontal cortex which helps guide their behaviors in a goal directed manner. As a result you are helping them build self-control, which will help override those emotional outbursts too! (… in time, of course!)

It took a solid two weeks of this for us to get back on track, but we were all sleeping soundly again. … That is until the next developmental shift or life stressor comes along where they need a little extra TLC.

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Last but not least…

If you need some help on how best to communicate with your little one about sleep, let’s talk about it — go here to schedule a FREE 15-minute call with me.

Or if you have a sleep question feel free to email me, and I’d be happy to answer your question! I love helping my readers!

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Wait, one more thing…

Every other week I share 5 things on how you and your little can get the most out of their first 5 years of life in my newsletter — Healthy Little Note.

If you have little ones, I’m sure you’ll love it!

You can check out the most recent issue here.

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 Susie Menkes, PhD is a Certified Infant + Toddler Sleep Specialist through the Family Sleep Institute (FSI) and is dedicated to helping families get their little ones to be healthy little sleepers. As a mom of two, she knows and understands what you are going through and is here to support, educate, and guide you on all matters related to sleep... and more!

Susie Menkes, PhD is a Certified Infant + Toddler Sleep Specialist through the Family Sleep Institute (FSI) and is dedicated to helping families get their little ones to be healthy little sleepers. As a mom of two, she knows and understands what you are going through and is here to support, educate, and guide you on all matters related to sleep... and more!