Our clocks jump twice a year to reflect the seasons, and Americans must follow the law and make this change so everyone can be on the same chronological page. Humans are adaptable, but the switch can feel like jet lag and throw kids' bedtime routines into disarray.
In addition to explaining the change to your littles, some schedule and routine tweaks can help ensure everyone comes out of this mind-bending change in good spirits.
Before you give your kid the lowdown, it's worth getting the facts straight so you can answer follow-up questions. What exactly is daylight savings time (DST)?
Changing the clocks adjusts our waking hours to give us more daytime during spring and summer. An entomologist from New Zealand, George Hudson, is officially credited with inventing daylight savings in 1895, but he wasn't the first to dabble with the concept—Benjamin Franklin toyed with it too. The Germans enacted the idea to conserve energy during World War 1, and in 1966, the U.S. passed the Universal Time Act, differentiating between standard time and DST.
Only Arizona and Hawaii opted out of this process. Dozens of other countries practice DST for about 30 weeks of the year, although Europe refers to it as summer time.
Depending on how old your little one is and whether they can tell time, you may want to explain the transition when the clocks change. You can do this easily by using seasonal terms. Most people are asleep at 2 a.m when the clocks officially change, so let's use 7 a.m as an example. When it's November, and well into fall, the clock "falls back" and 7 a.m becomes 6 a.m. When the weather warms up in March and spring is in the air, the clock "springs ahead" and 7 a.m. becomes 8 a.m.
If your kid can't tell time, you can tell them that the sun shines for longer when winter is over. We just have to change our routine a little, so when the sun wakes up earlier, we can keep it company and have more fun outdoors. Videos online explain the process well if you want to outsource the job.
If you have an infant younger than six months, you don't need to stress too much about DST. Babies this little haven't developed a proper circadian rhythm yet, and a routine is still in the works. For small children, falling back an hour is more of a challenge, and sleep-loving teens won't be so keen on springing ahead.
The time change can affect energy levels, hunger, and possibly even bowel movements in you and your kids, so it's best not to embark on new challenges during this one or two-week transition. Kids with developmental issues such as autism tend to struggle the most. If your child is a good sleeper, you've lucked out.
Across the board, experts advise parents to amend their kids' bedtimes gradually a few days before the clocks shift. When the clock is falling back, move your child's bedtime and wake-up time later for half an hour in the three days before the transition, then return to the regular schedule after the clock change.
It's okay if you forget about DST and then suddenly realize it's going to happen tomorrow—you can transition slowly over the next week.
The body's internal clock responds to light. When it's dark in the evening, the hormone melatonin increases and makes us sleepy. Light, on the other hand, is a signal to the body to wake up. You can manipulate the lighting conditions to keep kids on track.
Screens shouldn't be allowed about 30 minutes before bedtime, because they're stimulating, and the light exposure is physiologically confusing. When falling back, light exposure in the early evening is fine, and blackout shades can keep the room dark in the morning.
Bedtime routines are essential for little kids. Keep them short, sweet, and relatively consistent. If you need to put your child to bed earlier, you may need to cut out a step, such as storytime, for a few days. When the changing clock makes you feel like you'll lose time in the morning, simplify the morning routine by picking clothes or prepping breakfasts the night before.
As you move to daylight saving time, try to limit the activities you commit to in the evenings so your kiddos can get enough sleep leading up to the clock change. If you usually go to your mom's place for dinner on a Friday evening, and you know it's an exciting time for the children, swap it for a restful evening at home that week.
After daylight saving time comes into play, there's a good chance it will manifest in crankiness and a sense that something is off. Understand where this behavior originates and consider being a bit more lenient than other weeks of the year.
Show yourself some compassion too and prioritize sleep, so you can emotionally regulate and support your tots when they lose the plot.
When bedtime is about an hour too late, you can ensure your schedule isn't waylaid by finding ways for your child to be more physically active during the day. It doesn't have to be outside the home, either—obstacle course games before you all sit down to dinner can wear them out as well as a tear at the park.
There's no reason to cut out a nap to prep for the changing clock; just keep an eye on the length. Don't let naps go longer during shifts to daylight saving time, and maintain the same number of hours between waking up from the nap and going to bed.