It's only an hour change, but that small 60-minute shift can have a whopper of an effect on children. "That hour is even more difficult for kids to deal with than flying cross-country to a whole new time zone," says Jodi Mindell, Ph.D., a professor of psychology at Saint Joseph's University in Philadelphia who specializes in pediatric sleep. "It can throw off their sleep, appetite, attention span, mood, everything." Why? A child's body clock is set by light and dark patterns, not by what it reads on your watch, Mindell explains. When you travel to a new time zone, it's still light and dark at the same points during the day. With daylight saving time, though, that changes, and it can take seven to ten days for a child's internal clock to "reset." These simple strategies will help ensure you're not faced with a tired, cranky mess of a kid come March 14.
Begin shifting your child's bedtime a day -- or, better yet, several days -- before the time change. If she usually goes down at 8:00, for example, have her under the covers by 7:45 the first night and 7:30 the next. "It's a small enough change that she should still be able to fall asleep, and it will help make it less of a shock on Sunday night," Mindell says.
Stick to your current daytime routine. Once the time change occurs, continue to have your child's meals, snacks, naps, bedtimes, everything, at the same time as usual, Mindell says.
Expose your child to bright light first thing in the morning (the indoor kind works) to reprogram her internal clock faster.