Four Ways to Help Kids Ease into the Time Change

Jamie Sumner
Special needs mom and author
03/02/23  6:00 AM PST
help kids ease into time change

It’s coming. Can you feel it – the hint of warmth in the breeze and the sheer volume of birdsong in the morning? Spring is so close. With it comes longer days, al fresco dining, and the ability to walk outside without five layers of clothes. But first we must lose that extra hour of sleep to get to all the good stuff as we move into daylight savings time yet again.

“Spring forward” sounds unusually aggressive when you’re hitting the snooze button in the darkness of that first Sunday. Children are wonderfully resilient, but they also crave the safety of predictability, especially children with special needs. My son Charlie loves a good routine and while he rallies when it must shift, he does better when he knows the when, where, why, and how of it all, which brings me to my top five best strategies for helping kids cope with the time change.

1. Start a few days early.

The best trick I ever learned when traveling for work was to ease myself into the unfamiliar time. A few days before I am scheduled to leave, I stay up half an hour earlier or go to bed half an hour later depending on which way the time shifts. It is just enough to make that flip of the hour on my phone a little less jarring as I cross state lines. You can do anything in half hour increments and so can your kids. Try beginning the bedtime routine half an hour early the Friday before the switch and shoot for fifteen minutes earlier for those few mornings. It’s just enough to make you feel like you didn’t just hop off a moving walkway at the airport when you wake on Sunday morning.

2. Use props.

I bought my first set of blackout shades when I brought Charlie home from the neonatal intensive care at ten weeks old. Between the oxygen monitor beeping and the bottle feeding every two hours, we were desperate for sleep whenever we could get it. One of his nurses recommended them to me and it was the best investment I ever made. Get yourself some shades for your child’s room to ease into the lighter nights and invest in a good sunrise alarm clock that glows gently in the new darkness of early morning. If the country can manufacture a time leap, then you can manufacture your own day and night to make it a bit calmer.

3. Research it together.

Any time I make a decision as a parent that I know might be confusing, I make sure to have my “why” ready. Why do we have to drive through the night to get to the beach on vacation? Why do we have to get flu shots every fall? Why can’t we eat bacon for every meal? “Because I said so,” is inefficient and frankly, totally uncreative. To get my kids invested in the whole daylight savings thing, we research it. We look up how railroad companies first invented time zones to make time keeping more accurate and avoid collisions. We look up the Standard Time Act of 1918, which instituted daylight savings during World War I to conserve power. And then we fall down the rabbit hole of why some states abide by it and some don’t and it usually ends in a debate that no one wins, but at least everyone understands the history! We have a “why” behind the change we are about to make whether we agree with it or not.

4. Manage emotions with a story.

This last one is my favorite. When Charlie first began practicing communication on his speaking device, we quickly fell in love with the emotions page. Long before he could string together sentences, he could tell us he felt “happy” when he got off the bus or “confused” when his usual aide wasn’t at school. I began to work with him on creating stories on the days that I knew a change like an unfamiliar aide or summer break was coming. We would draft his day as follows: “Tomorrow, I will roll into my classroom and Ms. M will not be there to meet me. I might feel ________. When it’s time for lunch, my new aide might not help me eat in the exact same way and that might make me __________.” At each blank, he fills in all the emotions he thinks he might feel, both good and bad, and we talk through them. In this way, he feels more prepared for the unknown. This works for the time change as well. Talk through or write down with your child any of the emotions that might crop up throughout the transition. It’s like a choose your own adventure story, but for daylight savings time.

Whatever strategies you use to help your child ease into this new season, grant yourself some grace during the rough edges of the week ahead. And as you sip your much needed first (or fourth) cup of coffee, remember, we are all in this together. Except for those states who opted out, which we shall not speak of and will try not to envy.


child with special needs
Jamie Sumner is a special needs mom and author.
Author of the middle-grade novels:















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