The good news is that I am a morning person. The bad news is that our teenagers are not! (Although, I guess it could be worse. At least I was gifted with being a morning person. Without my waking the house, no one would ever be on time!) I think I speak for most parents of teens when I say that I often leave the house exhausted and frustrated after the daily morning wake-up battle. Another piece of good news is- this is happening in many households. (That's one plus of being a school psychologist- I get to hear about how other parents are equally frustrated and I am not alone!) My children are otherwise wonderful and pleasant, but mornings are not their best time of day.
It is helpful to keep in mind that their resistance is not entirely with malicious intent. Teens need an average of nine hours of sleep, but biological patterns make it difficult for them to fall asleep before 11:00. Some teens actually get their second wind at around 10:00. Thus, the morning battle.
In a Frontline documentary “Inside the Teenage Brain,” (highly recommended!), they focused on research on teens and sleep. Researches found an internal biological clock that actually acts against the sleep-wake cycle which keeps teens awake when they should be feeling tired. After 12 hours of being awake, subjects ages 10-12 were actually less sleepy than they had been earlier in the same day. After 10:00, after more than fourteen hours of wakefulness had elapsed, they were even less sleepy. The teen's internal clock helps them stay alert at night when they should have been falling asleep, creating a “forbidden zone” for sleep around 9:00 or 10:00 pm. And, this same biological clock for us parents makes it hard for us to stay awake just when our teens are most alert.
By studying alertness, they also determined that “teens, far from needing less sleep, actually needed as much or more sleep than they had gotten as children -- nine and a quarter hours. Most teenagers weren't getting nearly enough -- an hour and a half less sleep than they needed to be alert. And the drowsiness wasn't only in the early morning. Teens had a kind of sleep trough in the mid-afternoon and then perked up at night, even though they hadn't had a nap.”
However, this is the reality with which are faced. Dr. James Lehman tells parents that step number one to alleviating this morning stress is for parents to “stop working so hard.” We take responsibility for getting them up in the morning. We are working so hard, so why should they? Why should they wake up if you are willing to do it for them? “You are substituting your extra energy and effort for your child's.” The key is giving them the responsibility for waking up.
New ground rules need to be established. Have a discussion with your child one evening about making a different plan. It is important to remember that a half-asleep adolescent is not capable of having a conversation with you in the morning. Keep the talk in the morning to a minimum, and the real conversation should happen when you are not rushing and when he is alert. For example, “From now on I will wake you twice. Then, after that, you are responsible. If you miss the bus, I will not drive you. You will miss school that day and will need to explain why you were out.” I've had parents tell children that they will have to take a car service to school and pay for it with their own money. This might sound harsh, and may not work for all families, but after a few days, they will realize you are not going to wake up for them. Likewise, if there are consequences in school, you will not bail them out.
Teens might need your help in figuring out how to get out of bed in the morning. Help them come up with some ideas. If you have a conversation with them about what is standing in their way and you help them problem solve, they will view you as trying to help them. For example, placing the alarm clock at the other end of the room so they need to get out of bed. Or making sure they pack themselves up the night before. Or, all phones charge in mom and dad's room after 9:00 pm.
You can also attempt to “wake up his brain” in the morning by loud music, nourishment or even a cute youtube video. Fuel his brain, but don't fuel the drama. We need to remind ourselves not to take the behavior personally, and stay calm.
Additionally, the natural consequences of not waking up in the morning on time, is an earlier bedtime. They can earn back their later bedtime once they can prove that they can be on time. The annoyance of having to go to bed earlier might be the incentive needed to wake up in the morning.
I have been trying some of the above advice, and it is working slowly. Until we have entirely eliminated the battles, my kids know not to talk to Mommy after 10:00 pm, as I am not a night person. And, I know not to talk to them in the morning. More good news- there are only ten more days until winter break, when we can let them sleep a little later and there's no rush to make the bus!
Sixth Grade- Students set goals for the next trimester for each class based on last trimester's performance.
Seventh Grade- Students focused on resiliency and the the components which make one resilient.
Eighth Grade- Cheating in school is a topic that creates additional pressure for our teens. Students began discussing how cheating plays into a Yeshiva setting- or does it?