We live in a world where the pressure on us is immense. From the time we wake up until we fall asleep at night, there are constant demands on our time, resources, bodies and brains. In fact, many of us don't truly relax until we are on holiday and even then we have our phones. The truth is though without regular recharging, our batteries will start to go flat and we all, children, teenagers and even adults won't be able to function at our best . This is turn affects our attitudes, relationships, work and if prolonged, at times our health. This applies from the youngest of children as soon as they are at childcare and only worsens once after school activities, homework and exams are added to the mix as they get older!
That is not to say that these things are bad, but rather that it is understandable why now, more than ever before, children and teenagers are not sleeping as well; not focusing as well in class or seem to be more volatile to live with.
One of our most common recommendations to parents is to ensure that every child in the family, no matter what age is getting at least 20 minutes to half an hour each day ( after school) to have " downtime." Whilst this word is new age and over used, when we use it, the meaning is simple. This is time for that child to be left completely alone. It isn't time to sit and chat with them or even let them do after school sports. Although it is true that both of things allow children and teenagers to relax more than they have for the rest of the day, they are still needing to respond and to function appropriately with the people around them.
All research suggests, that if a child does not wind down prior to bedtime, they will not sleep as well and yet in most houses there isn't time for an extra half an hour as so much is being crammed into their days. Although there is no one answer there are things that we have seen work beautifully in many families and the changes in the home dynamics have been astounding to see.
The first idea is to allocate 20 - 30 minutes each day where each child can do an activity that does not require anyone else. The stimulation from another person will not allow them to fully relax. What they are doing during that time is specific to the child in question and much like adults will depend on their personalities. For some teenage girls it may be long soak in a bubble bath, for different ages and stages it may be reading, for others IPAD or screentime and for some building lego or doing an arts and crafts activity.
The next step is to work out when in the day to slot in this time and that will again depend on your child's schedule and personality. For many, it works well immediately after school before the routine of homework, dinner, bath and bed begins. For some it works after dinner and for others it is prior to the final bedtime activities but after all the " work" of after school activities and interacting with family is over.
Finally, it is important to make sure that your child is getting that time on a consistent basis and you are facilitating it and helping it to be as relaxing as possible.