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Surviving Daylight Savings in Toddlerhood

You have just survived the 2 week marathon Halloween nightmare and are probably settling into a slightly more normal circadian rhythm with your toddler only to get broadsided by DAYLIGHT SAVINGS TIME.

Clock with scheduled hourly sections labeled for "homework," "playtime," "dinner," "bath time," and "bedtime."

Sleep is a hot topic among new parents because, to be honest, few are getting a good night's sleep. Studies have shown parents don't return to pre-pregnancy quality of sleep until their child is at least 5 years old... or until ALL their children are at least 5 years old. Sure we can offer suggestions or 'systems' as I like to call them, but sometimes things outside our control interfere and we fall victim to a toddler out of control. A mere shadow of the the little nugget we thought we knew. So this post isn't about how to avoid a bad night's sleep. This post is about defining systems and processes to try and get a decent night's sleep and to survive when you don't.


I like to use the term 'systems' because by definition it is "a set of things working together in a mechanism to get things done." It implies that there isn't one answer but a series of things working together to accomplish the goal. So the first system is what occurs during bedtime and wake time.

Keep your bed time system (the actions you take to get to bed... bath, story time, lights out) the same but when approaching day light savings, or the start of school after vacation, or any long term change in timing begin to move the bedtime system up slightly. A mere fifteen minutes a night is monumental in aiding the process.

Keep wake time systems the same (stay in their room, cuddle, get dressed, breakfast etc.). If the time to wake needs to move, do the same as your nighttime system and move it by fifteen minutes a few days prior.

Keeping things the same is paramount for toddlers. I'm going to say it now, but you will hear me say it all the time: Children do not operate in chaos. They seek the boundaries and will continue to seek the boundaries until they find them. So defined, appropriately planned systems will help you as a parent set the expectation and provide the guidelines necessary for your toddler to successfully meet them.


When daylight savings happens, or any bump that will affect your system, build a recovery day into your system. Lay low but do things that create joy and require little effort. Think simple... a stroll through the neighborhood, playing one on one in your space (toddlers love your full attention), couch cuddles, story time or watching a favorite show together, or simply sharing a favorite meal (my kids LOVED fish sticks- I know weird right but boy did I eat a lot of them). And just as a side note this recovery day is as much for parents as it is for kids. Things that impact our sleep schedule impact our wake schedule and adults are no different. I'm sure you are painfully aware of that fact you aren't getting the kind of sleep you once did. So take the recovery day for yourself too.


Everything regarding parenting is process based. Simply put, it's a group of actions taken to achieve a particular goal. As a parent your goal is to create the process ahead of time. I like to call this proactive parenting as opposed to reactive parenting. We'll delve further into this concept as it is the basis of our PILOT PARENTING program, but today is about the survival of sleep deprivation and systems to avoid it. So in this process (sleep and sleep disturbances) you're going to use and/or modify the systems (groups of actions) to achieve (or survive because let's be real, sometimes that's all we can get) the desired goal.

Now in the end even the best laid plans go astray. They are toddlers after all and come with an array of skills to break even the strongest of processes and systems- like I said before, they continuously challenge you to find the boundaries. On those days have some grace with yourself. Parenting is not easy and sometimes we are not successful in a given challenge and that's ok. Take a break, give yourself some self love, which for me is Talenti Salted Caramel Truffle Gelato (not sponsored but wouldn't mind being... @talenti), and when you're ready, re-examine your process and systems, make changes if necessary, and move on with confidence to parent another day.

Parenting is tough. You got them. We got you.


Image Credit: Zazzle

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