How to Handle Your Overtired School-Aged Child

It’s easy to tell when babies and toddlers are tired. They get fussy, yawn, and rub their eyes a lot. But as your kid gets bigger and goes off to school with her backpack and lunch box every day, it might be less obvious that she’s overtired.

So how do you know if your elementary-age child is overtired and in need of more sleep? For starters, if you have to wake her up every day, then she needs more sleep, plain and simple.

Another way to tell is if she starts reverting back to the kinds of behaviors smaller children have, like problems with sharing. Look for those moments when out of nowhere, she suddenly stops sharing with her sister and acting more childish than usual.

More obvious signs of an elementary-age child being overtired are when they have trouble with the work in school and when they don’t talk as much. If you’ve notice your child is acting in these ways, then you’re going to have to make a change that allows them to get the sleep they need. Without proper sleep at this age, it can lead to larger problems down the road so it’s best to nip it in the bud using these tactics.

Make bedtime consistent

The earlier on in your child’s life that you form a consistent bedtime routine, the better. But it’s always better late than never too. Just like adults, kids need to unwind from their days too. Each night should feature the same steps, such as taking a bath, brushing teeth, getting into pajamas and reading stories together. Also, dimming the lights after dark works well on bigger kids just like it does for babies to signal the time for sleep is near. Eliminate screen time when bedtime is near so that your kids’ brains are ready for sleep.

Put your child to bed earlier

You can’t just go from a 9pm bedtime to 7pm without resistance. So gradually move bedtime earlier and earlier in 15 minute increments until you get to a reasonable bedtime for your child. As she gets more sleep, you’ll notice a massive improvement in her behavior.

Reward positive behaviors and changes

When your child is compliant, you should acknowledge it. So if she gets herself ready for bed all by herself and the next thing you know, she’s calling you into her room for that bedtime story, guess what? You’ve done a good job teaching her how to get to bed on time. Make sure you reward her with plenty of praise, specifically citing that you’re proud of her for getting ready for bed on her own and being such a big girl. You can also make rewards out of this to keep this high level of behavior going. For example, tell her that on every Saturday, if she’s in her pajamas and in bed by bedtime story time, then you will take her on a special outing.

Making these changes will help bring more peace, quiet, and rest to your home. While it will take some effort on your part, the results are worth it and nothing is ever more important than your child’s health!

In Empowerment,

Barb Roba, LMHC

Founder of Behavior Corner


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