Lots of kids have trouble waking up in the morning – especially teenagers. However, youngsters are supposed to be in school by 9 a.m. in most places. Some localities have actually changed the starting time of school to 10 a.m. for adolescents because so many kids in this age group are still groggy at 9! No matter what time school starts, many parents have to leave the house early in the morning so they can get to work on time. For this reason alone, they may need their kids to get up bright and early.
If your child has trouble getting up in the morning, consider the following tips:
Trouble Waking Up Can be Related to the Amount of Sleep Your Child Got
Unsurprisingly, if a child doesn’t get enough sleep, he or she will simply be too tired to get up when the alarm goes off. A lot of kids – and maybe ALL teenagers – go to bed too late. Nowadays, with the constant hum and beep of computers and cell phones, kids stay up to all hours. They’re always “on” and don’t know how to turn off. Of course they’re exhausted!
Getting your child to sleep on time is critical to getting him or her to wake up easily in the morning. Make firm rules about bedtime. Help your child settle down in the half hour before bed by prohibiting stimulating activities like computer games and action movies. Quiet time for bath, stories and tucking in should start long enough before the target bedtime so that the child can be closing his or her eyes at the actual bedtime. Teens, too, need limits around bedtime. Computers and cell phones can be OFF in the twenty minutes before bed. Shower, quiet reading and into bed by bedtime can be the rule for your teenager as well as for your younger child. Failure to comply can cost privileges like use of the family car (“Sorry – I can’t let you drive the car on so little sleep”), allowance, and so on. (See Raise Your Kids without Raising Your Voice, by Sarah Chana Radcliffe for ideas on how to design effective and appropriate negative consequences.)
Trouble Waking Up Can be Related to the Quality of Sleep Your Child Got
Some kids are in bed on time and theoretically sleeping the correct number of hours, yet they are exhausted upon awakening. They can’t drag themselves out of bed. This can happen when the quality of sleep has been impaired. Illness such as ear infections, colds, flu’s and certain chronic physical health conditions (such as sleep apnea!) can affect the quality of sleep. Medications as well as illegal drugs and alcohol may cause morning exhaustion. Chronic mental health conditions such as ADD/ADHD., Asperger’s Syndrome, autism, depression, bipolar depression, and anxiety can impair sleep. Stress and trauma can impair sleep as well.
See your pediatrician for help in addressing the physical conditions that interfere with restful sleep. Your naturopath, herbalist, Bach Flower therapist, reflexologist or other alternative practitioner might also be able to help. Similarly, have your child’s emotional health assessed and treated by a qualified mental health practitioner. You might also be able to find CD’s for children’s sleep issues to help them get a better quality of sleep.
Trouble Waking Up Can be Related to Power Struggles between Parent and Child
Many parents get pretty worked up in the morning. When their child doesn’t immediately jump out of bed, the parents feel irritated, then annoyed and finally enraged. The child accidentaly discovers a way to passively “get back” at parents. The child can see how easy it is to make Mom and/or Dad “go crazy” in the morning and it’s sort of fun to get them to disintegrate this way! The child may not consciously be trying to provoke parents, but people who are relatively powerless (like kids) do love to discover that they have some power after all!
If your child is getting enough sleep but is unresponsive in the morning, TAKE YOURSELF out of the equation. DON’T be your child’s alarm clock! Instead, get a really loud or effective alarm clock (there are many new ones on the market that do all kinds of neat things to force the child to get out of bed). Try to find a clock WITHOUT a snooze alarm. Children who use the snooze feature can often turn it off a dozen times without getting out of bed! Putting the alarm out of arm’s reach can help address this problem as well. If the child has to get out of bed and climb on a stool to turn the thing off, it is less likely that he’ll fall right back asleep. Be sure not to “help” the alarm by also trying to wake up the child. If the child senses your annoyance in the morning, chances are higher that the problem will persist for a long time. Help yourself stay relaxed by being busy in the morning with other activities. Just be too busy to notice that your child is still in bed.
A completely different approach to ending morning power struggles is to be humorous and playful in the morning with your child. Sometimes coming into the child’s room with a joke book and sitting and reading it aloud for a few minutes, is enough to encourage the child to get out of bed in a good mood, ready to start the day. Or, perhaps giving your child a foot massage (only if the child likes this sort of thing), may help him or her start the day in a relaxed and positive mood.
Trouble Waking Up can be Related to a Lack of Real Consequences
Some kids attend schools that do not immediately punish tardiness. Eventually there may be a number of “late days” marked on the quarterly report card. But who cares? On the other hand, when a school gives an immediate punishment for arriving late (like an after-school detention), children work hard to be there on time. Of course, some parents drive the child to school in order to help the child avoid the consequences of being late; such a practice encourages difficulty getting up in the morning. If the school doesn’t have a policy about immediate punishment, it may be possible to take up this isdea with the classroom teacher. The teacher may be able to let you know on a daily basis whether the child was late and you may be able to construct a punishment at home (a consequence that happens every time the child is reported to be late) or the teacher may be able to suggest a punishment that will occur in school.
Help Create a Morning Atmosphere
It may help to change the night atmosphere of the room to a day atmosphere. Open the curtains and the window – let in some fresh air. Turn on the lights. Turn on the computer if there is one, and put some music on. For younger kids (or teens if they have given you permission), pull back the top layer of blankets so that the child isn’t so warm and cuddly. Start chatting to the child in an upbeat, friendly way.
It may be possible for you to offer the child incentives for waking up independently and on time. For instance, chocolate milk may be allowed if the child got up by himself or after the first call. Or, a child might be able to earn cash prizes for each cooperative morning wake-up. Or, the child may be able to earn “points” or “stars” and after accumlating a target number, then earn a gift that he or she would not have gotten otherwise.
Teach Your Child How to Set His or Her Internal Alarm
Teach your child to set an alarm clock and then to tell his or her brain to wake up 5 minutes before the alarm goes off. All the child has to do is send this instruction to his or her mind while in a relaxed state. Tell the child to picture the time on the clock that he or she wants to get up at. The child should see the time and picture him or herself getting out of bed then. Make this a game or a challenge. Let the child know it can take some days before the brain catches on, but it WILL catch on. Right now, the child’s brain is actually programmed to get up late!