Parenting With Psychology

Helping you build a set of parenting tools so you feel like an amazing parent ready to overcome your daily challenges.

Subscribe to my Newsletter

How to Adjust Your Child to Daylight Saving Time

ages 0 - 6 months ages 5 years - 11 years ages 6 months - 5 years consistency routines sleep Mar 06, 2024


Once again, the time has come to set our clocks forward and embrace longer daylight hours - an annual tradition that parents often dread.  While adults may find the transition through Daylight Saving Time in the spring relatively easy, children often struggle with the change in their sleep schedule.  As a parent, you play a significant role in helping your child adjust smoothly to this shift.  In this blog post, we will delve into the effects of changes to sleep schedules on children, specifically focusing on the spring time change.  We will also explore lesser-known strategies and choices parents have in their arsenal to ease this transition for their little ones.


The Impact of Sleep Schedule Changes on Children

Children thrive on routine and structure, making any disruption to their sleep schedule a potential challenge.  When we spring forward and lose an hour of sleep, our internal body clocks need time to readjust.  This can lead to a host of issues, including difficulty falling asleep, increased irritability, and daytime fatigue.  It's essential to understand these effects to better support our children during this time of transition.  Of course, as parents, we are also dealing with the effects of the time change and may have to work extra hard to overcome our own irritability and daytime fatigue.


The Spring Time Change: A Deeper Look

Let's dive deeper into what the spring time change means for your child's sleep routine.  Shifting the clocks forward means that their bedtime will no longer coincide with their body's natural sleep-wake cycle. Consequently, children may find it harder to fall asleep at their usual bedtime (because 8 pm, for example, will feel like 7 pm), making the evenings more challenging for both them and their parents.  If they lay in bed for longer than usual and end up getting less sleep than usual, then their behavior may suffer the next day.


Options for Easing the Bedtime Transition

When it comes to transitioning your child's bedtime during spring Daylight Saving Time, there are different options to consider.  Let's explore three common approaches and the pros and cons of each:

  1. Rapid Time Change (One Night): This option involves adjusting your child's bedtime by one hour immediately after the time change so they would feel like they were going to bed one hour earlier than usual.  This approach has the advantage of being straightforward and potentially quickly aligning their sleep schedule with the new time.  However, it can be disruptive for some children who may struggle to adapt so abruptly, resulting in difficulties falling asleep and increased daytime fatigue.  If you plan to use this approach, I suggest planning a very physically active day on Sunday so they are more tired than normal at bedtime and better able to fall asleep at bedtime.  Ideally, Monday would be very active, too, which might mean a fun outing after school for school-aged kids.


  1. Gradual Time Change (Two or Three Nights): With this approach, you gradually shift your child's bedtime by 20 minutes over three nights or by 30 minutes over two nights leading up to the time change.  If your child’s bedtime is 8 pm and you go with the two-night option, you would put them to bed 30 minutes early on Saturday and at their regular bedtime on Sunday - so 7:30 pm on Saturday and 8 pm on Sunday (according to the new Daylight Saving Time).  Using the 3-night plan, you would put them to bed 20 minutes early on Saturday and 20 minutes late on Sunday (after adjusting for DST), and then they would be on schedule by Monday - so that would mean 7:40 pm on Saturday, 8:20 pm on Sunday (after adjusting the clocks for DST), and 8 pm on Monday.  This method allows for a gentler adjustment, giving their internal clock time to adapt.  However, it requires more planning and may extend the transition period, potentially leading to confusion or inconsistency.  If the three-night option sounds daunting, try out the two-night option.  That is what our family usually does.


  1. Child-Led Approach: Instead of imposing a specific bedtime adjustment, this approach involves closely observing your child's sleep cues and adjusting their bedtime accordingly.  By listening to their natural rhythms, you allow them to guide the transition.  The benefit of this approach is that it respects your child's individual needs and preferences.  However, this approach requires more flexibility and patience as you navigate your child’s signals and adjust bedtime accordingly.  Also, if you normally follow the clock to decide on bedtime, you may be a little less in tune with their sleep cues and potentially miss their drowsy period, which can result in keeping them up too late.


Beyond Bedtime Adjustments

While changing your child's bedtime is a crucial aspect of easing the transition through Daylight Saving Time, there are other actions you can take to support them during this adjustment period.  Consider the following strategies:

  1. Light Exposure: In addition to adjusting bedtime, ensure your child receives exposure to natural light during the day, particularly in the mornings.  This helps regulate their body clock.  Conversely, limit exposure to electronic devices and bright lights in the evening, as these can interfere with their sleep hormone production.
  2. Relaxation Techniques: Incorporate relaxing activities into your child's bedtime routine to signal that it's time to wind down.  Reading a book together, taking a warm bath, or practicing calming exercises can help create a peaceful transition to sleep.
  3. Consistent Wake Time: While adjusting bedtime is vital, maintaining a consistent wake time can also prove to be very beneficial.  Waking your child up at the same time each morning helps reinforce their body's natural sleep-wake cycle, making it easier for them to fall asleep at the desired bedtime.  There’s some solid science behind that suggestion, but I don’t blame you if you scoff at the idea of waking your sleeping child.
  4. Nap Adjustments: If your child takes regular daytime naps, consider gradually adjusting their nap schedule leading up to the time change.  This gradual shift helps synchronize their sleep-wake cycle with the new time, reducing potential disruptions during the transition.
  5. Encourage Physical Activity: Especially during the spring forward time change, engage your child in physical activities during the day to promote healthy sleep patterns and tire them out for bedtime.
  6. Mindful Parenting: Be patient and understanding during this adjustment period.  Your child may exhibit increased irritability or resistance to bedtime, but it's crucial to remain calm and supportive.  Offer reassurance and comfort, and remember that this phase will pass.  Also, show yourself some grace if you feel more tired or irritable during this period, and try to set yourself up for success by prioritizing an early bedtime for yourself.


Take-Home Message 

As parents, we hold the key to helping our children navigate the challenges associated with Daylight Saving Time in the spring.  By recognizing the impact of sleep schedule changes on children, understanding the nuances of the spring time change, and making informed choices, we can ease the transition for our little ones.  Whether you choose a rapid or gradual time change, or opt for a child-led approach, maintaining consistent routines and supporting their sleep needs will go a long way in ensuring a smoother and more restful transition for your child.  Remember, every child is unique, so it's important to find the strategies that work best for your family.  With patience, understanding, and a tailored approach to your child's needs, you can guide them through the spring forward time change and set them up for restful nights and energized days ahead.  Embrace the extra daylight with confidence, knowing that you have equipped your family with the tools to spring forward with ease!


Managing Daylight Saving Time falls under the Consistency category of my 5 C’s parenting framework (see Are You An Intentional Parent? to learn more about The 5 C’s).  To view more posts in this category, use the category search menu on the right of your screen.  Thanks for joining me to fill your parenting toolbox with psychology-based tools to feel more confident and capable in your parenting.  Keep up the good work on your amazing parenting journey!


P.S. Along the lines of planning out an active weekend to help your kiddo adjust to the time change, I have a freebie you’ll love that’s all about maximizing quality family time on the weekend.  You can download your copy here.

Listen on Spotify Podcast


Watch on YouTube


Amazing parenting is not about always saying
and doing the right thing and raising perfect children.  It’s about becoming intentional in your parenting and proactive in learning skills to help you parent more effectively in a way that fits best for your unique parent-child dynamics.

Weekly tips delivered straight to your inbox can help you become an amazing parent today!

You're safe with me. I'll never spam you or sell your contact info.