Tips for getting kids to bed before sunset this summer

Grand River, Grand Rapids
Downtown Grand Rapids at dusk. (Courtesy Thurston De Vos, file)

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — Wednesday, June 21 marks the first day of summer and the summer solstice. For many the extended daylight hours are good for the soul and the mood, but for parents it can be a real struggle.

24 Hour News 8 sought the advice of a pediatric psychologist on how parents can help their children, because the rules are simple when you’re a kid: when the sun is out it’s not time to go to bed.

Dr. Brittany Barber Garcia, a pediatric psychologist at Helen DeVos Children’s Hospital, knows explaining the summer solstice and earth’s rotational axis can be hard to translate for kids. But parents can help them by sticking to a consistent routine.

“Routines need to be flexible, especially with young kids. But at the same time if you can maintain some of the same practices you do during the school year it can be really helpful at providing the body with some cues about when it’s time to start winding down for bed. Even if it’s still really bright and sunny,” said Barber Garcia.

Establishing a nighttime routine — steps you do every night in the same order — can also help.

“When you sit down to do that last thing, whatever it is, I would encourage you try and get the room a little bit darker,” said Barber Garcia.

That could be simply closing the blinds, investing in black-out curtains or even a black sheet over the window.

Some kids have a hard time articulating why they’re having a hard time getting comfortable or staying asleep. Barber Garcia says kids and adults alike sleep better in cooler temperatures — around 68 to 72 degrees.

“Help your kids cool down their room a little bit — take off a layer of clothes or use a lighter blanket,” said Barber Garcia

As families are enjoying the summer months, remember school is right around the corner.

“Bad sleep habits take about no time at all to form, but they take about three to four weeks to get back into a regular routine,” Barber Garcia said.