Between hours and hours of homework, after-school sports, and band practice, it can be hard for kids to find the time to sleep—even younger children between the ages of five and 12. As teachers continue to pile on the assignments, forcing children to stay up late and get up early, sleep is often sacrificed.
In fact, the amount of time that kids ages six to 17 spend on homework increased from about two and a half hours in 1981 to just under four hours in 2004. To combat the burdens of homework, some school districts across the country are placing limitations on assignments. Regardless of the size of your child’s homework stack, you can use these do’s and don’ts, below, to help him or her cope with the stresses of school to sleep better at night.
Kids need to learn how to budget their time, even at a young age. Start by explaining that when they have a big project, they should work on it a little every night, instead of cramming in all the work on the day before it’s due. By teaching them how to get organized and use a planner to track homework, they’ll be better able to divide their time—and catch more zzz’s.
It’s easy to write off headaches and stomachaches as minor ailments, but they could actually be signals of stress, especially in younger kids. A reluctance to go to school is another cue.
The TV in the den and the video games in your kids’ rooms are major distractions. Encourage your children to find a quiet place in your home to do their homework. If you don’t have one, maybe a trip to the local library will help. When there are little to no interruptions and diversions, your children are more likely to work quickly and efficiently, freeing up time for other pursuits.
One of the biggest sources of stress for kids is simply packing too much in. It’s not just high school students who are overwhelmed with Advanced Placement courses and field hockey—even in elementary school, kids have clubs and activities. The pressure to get your child into the “right” high school (and even college!) starts early. Take a careful look at your children’s calendars and ask them if they feel overloaded. If necessary, cut back on the extracurricular activities to make sure that they have enough time for fun and rest.
Sleep deprivation can lead to serious mental and physical health problems. To help your children unwind, give them a firm bedtime and set the stage for a relaxing bedtime routine in the 30 to 60 minutes before hitting the sack. Gradually calming down before bedtime is also known as having good sleep hygiene. Since your kids look up to you as the sleep models in the family, it’s crucial for you and your spouse to set a good example. When you and your partner create a healthy snooze environment and stick to wholesome habits, it will be easy for your kids to follow in your footsteps.