Is it Bedtime Yet? How to Survive Your Teen’s Sleep Schedule

I ran into a friend the other day and we got to talking about family. I asked how the school year was going, now that her kids were in middle and high school.  After the expected “all’s good” report, my friend added with great exasperation,

“But they never go to sleep! I’m so tired. I can’t stay up as late as they can. And Ron and I have to leave the house just to have a conversation!”

Oh, so it’s not just us feeling that way!

Does your teenage now tuck you into bed at night?

Has Saturday breakfast been replaced with brunch (with the emphasis on “unch))?

Do your teens ask if they can watch a movie at 9:30, just as you’re wondering if it’s too early for you to hit the sack?

When your teens say “matinee” do you think “8 dollar nap”?

Are you and your spouse creating new methods of communication just so you can have a private conversation?

If you can answer Yes to any of the above, know that you are not alone. Our teens’ biological clock is working at odds with our middle-age sundials.  It’s a stage of parenthood that we have to learn how to navigate. I wrote about our teens’ need for sleep earlier and you can read about it here.  But today I’m talking about our need for rest and how too often it looses out to our teens’ sleep cycle. It doesn’t have to, and it shouldn’t. Here are some tips and suggestions that I’ve found. I’d love to hear what works for you:

Sunday naps are heavenly. I’ve learned not to leave chores for Sunday afternoon or over schedule that time. Let Sunday, or whatever your day of rest is, be what it’s intended for–rejuvenation.

It’s OK to only see the beginning and end of the latest blockbuster, and sleep through the story arc. (That’s why they have recliner seats now.) I have seen Kung Fu Panda 2 three times, the beginning and end, that is. I’ve never made it through the entire thing.

DVRs are your friend. Yes, they can “start” the TV show/movie at 9:30, but they’ll have to record it to watch the “end” of it the next day.

Multivitamins are also your friend. I used to think that I didn’t need vitamins because I eat enough vegetables (most of the time, anyway), but I’m finding that a multi-vitamin in the morning is like a shot of caffeine that lasts all day. And they’re legal.

Speaking of caffeine, coffee is the best way my husband and I have found to have a conversation. Whether it’s at 6 am before the girls wake up for school, or in the glorious hours on a Saturday morning, we use that time to catch up on all things family and marriage.  No scrolling on devices, no reading silently, just coffee and conversation.

Our other go-to trick to have a private conversation is in the car. Consider the simple errand run. Need some more dog food?  I’ll come with you. The more mundane the task, the less likely our teens will want to come along, leaving us the opportunity for some much needed time to chat.  And the car doesn’t have to be in motion. I never understood why my parents would sit in the car in the garage after we returned home. Why didn’t they come right inside the house like my brothers and I did? What did they do out there all that time? Now, 30 years later, I finally get their brilliance. Don’t be in a hurry to get out of the car.

Our teens are capable of brushing their teeth on their own, turning off the lights, and climbing into bed without our help or supervision. Really, is the effort to stay awake until they go to bed for their benefit or for my misguided need to be needed?

And when I start feeling any guilt about not being able to stay awake with them, I remind myself that I am a better parent when I am rested, that I am setting an example of a responsible adult who gets the rest they need in order to get up for work on time, and that I am taking care of my health when I get adequate rest. Oh yeah, and I love my pillow.

So let’s give ourselves a break and take that nap, have that extra cup of coffee, or join our spouse on the trip to the lumberyard. Our teens will thank us for it.