It's Fall Back Time: 6 Tips to Help Kids Adjust to Time Changes

November 1, 2016

If you haven’t heard already, or if you’ve forgotten, this weekend is fall back time. That’s right, it’s time for the clocks to go back – and more importantly for parents, we can get an extra hour of sleep (hopefully) on Saturday night. So, don’t forget to turn your clocks back by one hour before you hit the hay, or you’ll get Sunday off to a rocky start for you and the kids.

Making the Adjustment Is Challenging

Summer and Fall time changes are a challenge not only for you but especially for kids. Kids don’t deal with sleep deprivation as well as adults, and any sudden change in their routine could affect them in a number of ways. The time change is a sudden adjustment that impacts many children.

“Young children need more sleep and don’t tolerate sleep deprivation as well as adults,” explains Daniel Lewin, Ph.D., Associate Director of Sleep Medicine at Children’s National Health System in Washington, D.C. to “The loss of just one hour can really affect a child’s attention span, appetite, and overall mood.”

6 Steps to Helping Children Adjust to the Fall Time Change

For parents, this means being proactive about time changes and doing what you can to ease the transition for your kids. The following outlines some great ways to plan for the time change.

1. Learn from your mistakes

If you have children who are a little bit older, then you’ve gone through this process before. This also means that you have a good idea of how your kids will react to the time change. Were they miserable the last time the clocks changed? Was there something you did that helped them transition? Was there something you could have done better? Learn from your past experience and mistakes to make the time a smoother transition for your kids.

2. Start making adjustments now

For many people, the only thing they do when daylight savings time approaches is change the clock. However, the key to successfully transitioning without feeling like a zombie from The Walking Dead is to start prepping now. Make sure you and the kids are getting a good night’s sleep now (we know – easier said than done!) and in the days leading up to the time change, and start making slight adjustments to when you put the kids to bed and wake up in the morning.

3. Recognize that it is a process – take baby steps

Taking baby steps is the best approach to helping your kids adjust to the fall time change. For example, if you child goes to bed at 7:30pm, then start putting them to bed a few minutes later each night in the days leading up to the time change. 10-15 minute intervals work because they are not a noticeable difference.

Bedtime before the time change: 7:30pm

Bedtimes in the week leading up to the time change:

  • Monday: 7:40pm
  • Tuesday: 7:50pm
  • Wednesday: 8:00pm
  • Thursday: 8:10pm
  • Friday: 8:20pm
  • Saturday (Time Change): 8:30pm – which will switch back to 7:30pm once the time changes
  • Sunday – normal bedtime – 7:30pm

In the spring, you can do the opposite and start putting the kids to bed a little bit earlier each day when the clock springs ahead.

4. Have a plan if the kids wake up too early

The kids will likely wake up earlier than normal. So what do you do? If they wake you up early, you could try to get them to go back to sleep. If this doesn’t work, you could try to get them to play quietly in bed. Worst case, you will have to get up with the kids and start your day a little earlier than expected.

To ensure it’s fair, parents - perhaps a game of Paper, Rock, Scissors is in order to see if mom or dad has to get up with the kids.

5. Stick with your sleep routine

Even with the time changing and making slight adjustments to bedtime, it’s still important to stick with your normal bed routine, especially for young children. “For young children, it’s absolutely critical that they have a routine during bedtime,” says Dr. Lewin. “That’s what helps create a powerful signal for sleep.” The routine will help the kids mentally prepare for bedtime.

6. Every child is different

The most important thing to keep in mind when turning the clocks back this weekend (and forward this spring) is that every child is different. You may have a child who takes the time change in stride and is completely fine with it, yet have another who struggles to get out of bed. The good news is that, if you have a child who doesn’t adjust well, they will adjust eventually. You just have to be patient with them and work with each one of your children individually to help them make the adjustment.


Daylight savings time changes are an adjustment for us all. However, it can be an even bigger adjustment for the kids. Help them make the transition by taking a proactive approach to the time change, have a plan and have a little patience. This will help your little ones adjust quickly.

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