My youngest gets up at 6 a.m. nearly every morning. It's like she has an internal alarm clock that pops her out of bed on the stroke of 6. It doesn't matter if she went to bed late or early. If she sleeps until 7, one of us usually ends up going to check to make sure she's still breathing.
These two factors made yesterday a long day. When my youngest gets tired, she loses the ability to think before she speaks. It's like her brain is too tired to filter out what's appropriate and what's not. And yesterday that filter wasn't working at all. By the time I took her to hockey practice last night, I was done dealing with her mouth.
When we're tired, we generally don't make the best decisions. Our brains can't function well without the right amount of rest. Too often, we're quick to sacrifice that rest for other things.
I heard about a recent study on the news the other day that said teenagers who get less than eight hours of sleep a night are more likely to engage in risky behaviors. It makes sense. Lack of rest equals lack of good decision-making. The scary statistic in the study was that 67 percent of all teenagers get less than eight hours of sleep a night.
We're raising a generation of sleep-deprived children. A generation of children that don't know how to rest. We run from activity to activity with little to no down time, and we expect our kids to continue at this pace with no end in sight.
God knew the value of rest for our mortal bodies. As a matter of fact, He thought it was so important, He instituted a day of rest. Exodus 20:11 says "For in six days the Lord made the heavens and the earth, the sea, and all that is in them, but he rested on the seventh day. Therefore the Lord blessed the Sabbath day and made it holy."
The Old Testament Jews were not to do any work on the Sabbath. They couldn't cook or work in the fields. They even had rules about how many steps they could take. It was a day of rest for their bodies and their minds.
As we raise our kids, we need to remember that even God set aside time for rest. Our minds and bodies weren't meant to function indefinitely on five or six hours of sleep a night. Kids need at least eight hours of sleep a night, usually more. Make rest a priority in your home so your kids can make good decisions.
- Set a consistent bedtime. My girls have the earliest bedtime of all their friends. My youngest is in bed by 8 p.m. most nights, and lights out for my oldest is at 8:30. Don't be afraid to have an early bedtime for your kids, especially if you have an early riser like we do. On busy weeks, I've been known to have my youngest in bed before 8.
- Set aside time for rest. On busy weekends, we often have what we call quiet time in our house. We send the girls off to their rooms and tell them to play quietly for an hour or two. While this isn't a time when they lie down, it is a time of rest for their brains and bodies.
- Don't be afraid to say no. If you look at your calendar and see nothing but a sea of activity for the next month, don't be afraid to cut things out or say no to the next invitation. If you miss a soccer game or a birthday party, it won't be the end of the world. Your family just might be healthier and happier because you said no.