No matter your reason for shifting, strategies for doing so are the same. Here are some strategies for you to try the change.
Slow and Steady Shift
If you are in a situation where you can shift the schedule slowly, this is a really easy way to approach the time change. I find this to be the best method with babies, pre-toddlers (12-18 months), and young toddlers. If your child is one who doesn't handle change well and you know waketime length is crucial down to the minute, this is also the best strategy for you even if you have an older toddler or young preschooler.
This likely will not work for you if you have your schedule designed to work around your work schedule or an older child's school schedule.
The benefit of this method is that it is pretty low-impact on the child. The change are so slow and minimal that the child easily and slowly adjusts.
The down side to this method is that your normal schedule is totally off for about a month--at least two weeks will be really off. That can be frustrating.
Here is how it works:
- Decide on a timeline. The whole thing takes 3-4 weeks, so you can start 3-4 weeks before your change or start two weeks before and work on it two weeks after, or one week before and work on it 2-3 weeks after...it is up to you.
- Week one: Move your schedule by 15 minutes. So if you are changing so your clocks are moving back (what is now 7 AM will become 6 AM), and your child wakes at 7:30, during this week, wake your child at 7:45 instead. You can slowly move it back during this first week or fully move it back. If your child wakes at 7:30, slowly move the time the child eats closer to 7:45 so the metabolism shifts to expecting that time. Shift the rest of the day, also. So if nap typically starts at 9:30, move it to 9:45. Move bedtime back, also.
- Week two: Move it by another 15 minutes. You are now 30 minutes off of your typical schedule.
- Week three: Move it another 15 minutes so you are 45 minutes off of your typical schedule. An alternate is to take the full plunge and just move it 30 minutes this week. If you do, plan on a couple of weeks to adjust.
- Week four: Finish the move off by moving it another 15 minutes. You should now be at your goal.
Slow and Steady Shift Sped Up
You can also speed up the slow and steady shift. You can fit the idea into whatever time frame you have. Do you have a week you can be flexible with? Then change things every two days. Maybe you only have the weekend. Then shift things over the two days.
Cold turkey often works okay for older children. It is often also necessary with older children because of school schedules. You can try the slow and steady sped up approach with older children, but sometimes you just go all out and cold turkey.
To do this, you just wake up that first day of time change and do the new schedule. If you have children old enough to tell time or who use an "okay to wake clock" (this is the one we use: American Innovative Teach Me Time! Talking Alarm Clock and Nightlight), be sure you set your clocks the night before. Tell your child the time is changing and it will feel like it is time to get up before/after it is. Tell your child to stay in bed until the appropriate time. You can let older kids look at books in bed if needed.
You need to be prepared that if you do cold turkey, there will be some time of adjustment. There will likely be 2-4 weeks where your child is tired because the schedule just got shifted. Your child will have a hard time staying up late enough, going to bed earlier enough, waking up in the morning, or staying asleep in the morning--all depending on which way things shifted for you. Metabolism will also be off as meals are at different times.
Applying to Travel
So how do you apply this to travel? Personally, I don't take long enough vacations to make it worth trying to shift schedules for a vacation. I usually just keep our same schedule on vacation as would have at home, so if we are visiting a time zone earlier than ours, then we are waking up an hour earlier while there. I have done this even since Brayden was a baby.
You might have reasons for needing it shifted. If so, just apply the strategy of your choice listed above.
How do you handle the time change? Any tips?