Celebrations Or Sleep?
If they haven't already, they will ask soon, "Mom, can I stay up until midnight on New Years?" It seems innocuous enough of a question - and something of a rite of passage. Staying up late is one of those unofficial "I'm growing up" events.
Whether you do let your child stay up late - or stay up only a little later to a modified celebration time - is highly individual. There are considerations such as whether your child can handle it, both on the evening of and for several days afterward, and are you prepared for it? It also highlights a curious thing we do in our society: we "reward" by allowing, even encouraging our kids to get less sleep.
Rewarding with less sleep
Over the last couple of decades more and more research has pointed to just how critical sleep is to growing and developing bodies and minds. Indeed, lack of appropriate sleep is linked to behavioral issues, obesity, depression, and a host of other issues. Sufficient sleep is absolutely critical - and many feel it is a public health issue.
For information on sleep and sleep needs, visit the National Sleep Foundation.
But when things are going well with our kids, they ask to stay up later and we often assent. Grades are good, behavior is good - and perhaps because of adequate sleep! - but less sleep is sometimes the goal for those achievements. It's, "Yay for you! In acknowledgement of your doing so well, let's compromise your health by letting you get less sleep!" It makes no sense!
In light of that, how does staying up later on New Year's fit in? What message does it send?
Just one night a year
You're right, it's just one night a year. If your child is really adamant about staying up late and you are up for it and can help them along, you likely will all survive one night of less sleep. Some kids, even though they beg and plead to stay up and get the parent's okay, just can't keep eyes open. More than one New Year's in our home has ended with carrying a sleeping child upstairs in advance of the ball drop. Sometimes the anticipation and excitement of the okay from you is enough to tucker out their little bodies.
While I would likely not take my children out late to an event or party on New Year's, we do create our own little celebration. After the excitement of the holidays, I'm pretty tired, too, and am not interested in intense frivolity or partying. New Years is a time for just our little family. We put on pajamas in the early evening, watch a movie together, have some cookies and eggnog and talk about the year past and the year ahead. It's cozy. Letting your kids stay up for New Year's can be a lovely time - and maybe not at all what the kids expect with all the media hype.
Preparing for - and learning from - the fallout
The day after New Year's, however, is likely to be when you feel the full impact of your kids staying up late. You're tired the next day and they are tired for the next several days - and they likely didn't sleep late like you hoped. It will take several days of concerted effort to return to regular sleep schedules for everything to be even again. It may have been a fun evening, but the value may be highest in realizing just how critical regular and sufficient sleep is for all of you! No matter how much you think you are prepared, cranky overtired kids are cranky overtired kids!
As it's New Year's and resolution time, perhaps your experience with letting your kids stay up late for the turn of a clock hand can be the impetus for an important resolution: sleep for all of you. Learning about sleep needs and good sleep hygiene can have a huge impact on the health and well-being of all of you - whether you stay up late for New Year's or not.
Tell us: Do you plan on letting your kids stay up on New Year's? Comment below!
For more tips on New Year's Eve with the kids: