DENVER (KDVR) — How do you get your kid back into the routine of waking up early, doing homework and being on time?
Routines are so important for kids, and the transition can be hard for children of all ages.
FOX31 spoke to an expert at the Graduate School of Professional Psychology at the University of Denver, Dr. Kim Gorgens, about how you can make that transition as easy as possible.
She said the main thing is sleep, and kids need a lot more sleep than you think. Younger kids need 11 to 13 hours a night, and teenagers should be getting about 9 hours.
So, parents have to weigh what bedtime makes sense for doing homework, having dinner, getting enough sleep, and then waking up to get to school on time.
Gorgens said giving your kids control over part of their routine can help create a more seamless transition.
“So for kids, it’s not so much implementing a routine for them but embedding their choices in that routine and using it in a developmentally appropriate way. Using their choices for what time for bed, what time to wake up. What do you want to wear? What do you want to wear for PJs? What stuffies do you want in the bed? So, giving them control over all of those aspects of routine,” said Gorgens. “This, I think, is the trickiest thing and sleep is the foundation of all health, all mental health, brain health. It’s everything.”
Gorgens said research shows it takes about two weeks of consistent effort to change your sleep routine.
When it comes to big transitions like starting middle school or high school for the first time, how do you know your kid is not adjusting well?
Gorgens said changes in personality, going from being very outgoing to suddenly being introverted or withdrawn. Also, overt changes in sleep, eating patterns and self-destructive behaviors are all red flags.
So how do you have those conversations?
“Well watching for change. This is where if you can open those channels of communication and be really deliberate about creating spaces in a day where you’re checking in with your kids. And I always say for parents with kids that it’s less about talking and more about listening. So, creating the spaces in the day where kids can tell you,” Gorgens said. “So parental intuition is remarkable. So trust your gut, have conversations when you’re worried, reach out for support, but otherwise, validating and normalizing their feelings and preparing them for the transition.”
She said parents should be open to getting a call from a mental health professional at the school or calling them for help, be willing to address the challenge and find the proper support for their student.
Gorgens said IMatterColorado.org is a great resource for parents and all school-aged kids.
Also, the DU Mental Health and Wellness Collaborative is another great resource.