How many times do we ask this question of our teenagers? It seems we are asking this question when a teen reacts in a negative way, or they have their head down, or their hoodie is over their head. Don’t get me started on the badgering that goes on in schools about kids wearing their hoodies in school. Let’s be happy they are showing up for school. They have so much going on right now. Can we cut them a break? Let’s pick our battles. We act surprised when we get a negative reaction from a kid when we accuse them of not getting a good night’s sleep. Are we putting them on the defensive that they must have bad parents because no one in the home is supervising them?
So, how do we make sure our kids get a good night's sleep and how do we get them to understand the importance of getting a good night’s sleep? Everyone says that a good night's sleep is so important. I have been working with kids for over 20 years and researchers continue to say that kids need more sleep. They keep talking about changing school hours, but nothing has changed. Things actually got worse in a lot of states during the pandemic because school systems actually started adding more time to their daily school schedule. Teachers, parents, doctors, and podcasts will tell you that you have to start changing your sleeping habits. For years it seems like the advice was just to go to bed early. These days with social media and smartphones, the answer is no longer “just go to bed early” because they are definitely going to bed, but not falling asleep.
Growing up I was never a good sleeper. Of course it got worse during my teenage years because my mind was racing about boys, school, and my friends. It was that constant worrying about who might not be my friend the next day, is the bully going to see me in the hallway, is the teacher going to call on me, etc. etc. The things that kept me up at night might seem minute to kids these days, but these were big stressors in the 80’s and 90’s. The advice back then was to drink a warm glass of milk or take a hot bath. Yes, those were the 2 answers back in the day.
The advice these days is to take your child’s cell phone away at night, place the child’s cell phone on the other side of the room, turn off the television, remove the television from their room, remove the tv cables, etc. Teens love to use the excuse that they need their cell phones for their alarm. Remind them that they can go to Wal-Mart and get one for under $10. Let me give you all a little more insight...kids are no longer watching television - they are streaming shows on their phone, watching TikTok, and YouTube. They will tell you over and over again that watching TikTok and YouTube videos does not keep them awake, but they give you a blank stare when you ask them why they can’t fall asleep. Hey parents - did you know you can actually put parental controls on their phone? Teenagers know about it, but they sure ain’t going to tell you or show you how to set it up. As we know, they know more about technology than we do.
Let’s talk about extracurricular activities. I am the first person to voice the importance of being involved in extracurricular activities, but how late are they getting home? Are they getting home late and then having to do their homework? Are they working a part-time job after school and not getting home till 10 p.m? Our teens need time to wind down after a long day of school and after school activities.
How are we modeling good sleeping habits for our kids? Are we falling asleep on the sofa with the television on? Are they hearing the floor creaking outside of their bedroom door at 2 a.m. because you are going to sleep? Do you have a nightly routine to help ensure that you are getting a good night's sleep? Are we picking them up from sports and enjoying an energy drink or soda together?
I am noticing recently that more and more kids are taking Melatonin, or antidepressant medications that have drowsiness as a side effect. Some parents are giving their kids CBD to help with sleep. I am all for medication when it improves our quality of life, but are we becoming a pill popping society? I think you know the answer to that. It makes me a little nervous that starting kids off knowing that they can just take a pill to make things better, may lead to future problems. We are living in a society that doesn’t like to feel uncomfortable for too long. We want an answer yesterday. We are impatient. Can we all agree to first try changing some bad habits and see if it works?