For some parents, getting their teens back on track in the fall to start school is the most difficult time of the year. Often, teens have gotten used to staying up late and sleeping in, not to mention simply getting to do what they want with their days.
Now the alarm goes off at a hellish hour. Teens are poked and prodded and told to hurry up. Their days are full of structure and expectations. And once they are home it’s not much better. No time to relax or spend time with friends. Homework. Dinner. More Homework. Shower and get things laid out for the next morning. Mom & Dad pushing for a reasonable bedtime and trying to turn the brain off so that sleep will come…It’s no wonder that teens can become resistant and even oppositional at times!
Pediatricians are now suggesting that we may actually be pushing too hard, at least first thing in the morning. In a new policy statement, a large organization of US Pediatricians is suggesting that the school day for middle and high school kids not begin till at least 8:30.
“We want to engage in at least starting a discussion in the community,” Dr. Judith Owens a sleep medicine specialist at Children’s National Health System in Washington, D.C. Dr. Owens states that poor sleep has been linked to increased risks of depression, anxiety, obesity and motor vehicle accidents. “We’ve been steadily accumulating the evidence to demonstrate that chronic sleep loss has very significant health safety and performance outcomes”.
This may be especially challenging for teens with special needs and is part of a conversation we have been having with our parents. If your teen struggles with early mornings, you may be able, through their IEP, to arrange an accommodation that will allow them to start the day later.
For our part, through work with horses, we will work with our clients on relaxation techniques that may help them fall asleep, on problem solving skills for dealing with the details of getting ready in the morning (are there things that can be done the night before) and on self-soothing skills to help them when they are feeling rushed and perhaps overwhelmed.
Don’t be afraid to ask for what your child/teen needs. We are here to help. If you have a child or teen that is struggling, you may want to consider equine assisted therapy. We provide social, emotional and behavioral growth and learning through work with horses. Call or email to schedule a visit. We will show you around, introduce you to our wonderful horses, learn more about the challenges you are facing and share how we may be able to help.