1. Start early. Ideally, you should start trying to regain that school sleep schedule before school actually starts. If you slowly move bedtime back to an earlier hour and give wake-up calls earlier as well, the transition goes much smoother– less whining, less grumpy, more sanity.
2. Know how much sleep your child needs. Not all kids need the same amount of sleep. If you’re trying to make your child sleep for too long, of course he or she will wake up earlier than necessary and then likely feel tired before bed time and nap– which messes everything up. Start by looking up average sleep levels for kids in your child’s age range, and then compare that with his or her typical sleep habits previously in the summer if they were unregulated. This will give you a good idea of where to set bed times and wake-up times.
3. Be consistent. Next, don’t allow a drastically different weekend sleep routine. While many parents let their kids stay up a bit later on the weekends, try to avoid all-nighters followed by mid-day snooze fests– unless there is a super awesome Doctor Who marathon or something, I mean who could deny a child that joy?
4. Prepare your kids for sleep. There are a few things that can make falling asleep harder on children, including caffeine, large meals, snacks high in carbs or sugar, and high-energy activities, pretty much all the stuff most kids love to sneak. Be sure that your daily schedule sets dinner time well before bed time, avoid desserts too close to bed time, and end the day in a relaxing, calm way. Younger kids really benefit from a routine of sorts as well. Keep it simple. Something like, we brush our teeth, read a book, go to bed. Elaborate routines of any kind are generally an epic fail because they are harder to keep up on.
5. Use the light. The brain relies on light to gauge when to go to bed and when to wake up, use that to your advantage. Start lowering light levels close to bedtime, eliminate as much light at bed time, and then provide bright light in the morning.
6. Go to bed yourself. You certainly don’t have to actually go to sleep, you can just hide in your room with a bottle of wine and your cookie stash if you want, but if there are people about the housebeing active, your child is less likely to go to sleep. Younger kids in particular worry they are missing something after they go to bed. It can be helpful to retreat to your room with the door shut, so it’s “bed time” for everyone, until your child falls asleep.
You might also find these helpful tips for achieving an easier wake-up call helpful.