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Build-A-Story: Help us find sleep-deprived parents of teens

We've all heard about how teens don't get enough sleep. But less is said about how hard their parents try to change that--with some moms and dads literally patrolling dark hallways during the wee hours for signs of light through the bedroom door. I write a lot about what I think of as the sociology of family life -- the way we live, our daily habits, how and why we do the sometimes funny things we do-- and I've heard stories about bleary-eyed parents who set their alarms to midnight or 1 a.m. so they can prod their teens toward bed.

It's all more complicated in the digital age, when kids sleep with cell phones and when laptops are open on bedside tables. It's almost impossible for some kids to unplug. Parents also feel conflicted about whether to insist on sleep when kids have more homework to do.

So what is life like for parents who find work midnight shifts as sleep cops? Are parents sleep-deprived, too?

Research on sleep deprivation among teens is pretty convincing. Only one in five gets enough sleep. Some parents have resorted to taking away cell phones or computers at a certain hour. One mom lamented that, while everyone expects parents of newborns to be tired at the office the next day, few think about the poor souls who are raising teens. What about you? Are you tired as you read this, and how do you deal with a son or daughter burning the midnight oil? Please email. I'm at stgeorged@washpost.com.

By Donna St. George  | August 17, 2010; 11:22 AM ET
Categories:  Build-A-Story  
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Comments

Huh? I don't get it. It hasn't been that long since I was a teenager staying up all hours but that was my problem and I had to learn to deal with it, which meant learning that somtimes I couldn't stay up til 2 am. Why would it be my parents' duty to patrol when I go to sleep?

Posted by: rosesta | August 17, 2010 11:12 AM | Report abuse

Well, our oldest is 14 and loves to stay up late. She is learning the consequences naturally when she is exhausted in the morning if she has commitments she needs to get up for. Remember those precious weekend mornings? Teenagers still cherish those. Now, for parents of driving teenagers there's all sorts of reasons to need to stay up or alert or worried. We're not looking forward to that stage and wonder what kind of rules we will set so that we don't end up crazed sleep-deprived parents.....

Posted by: travelingmom | August 19, 2010 2:55 PM | Report abuse

This question couldn't be more timely. We're struggling with this issue at our house right now. The negotiations will soon begin, and we need some help!
My oldest is 18, off to college now for just one week. She didn't have to be told to get off the computer and go to bed. She worked hard academically and excelled in school due to her strong work ethic. We trusted her enough to allow her to have her own computer in her room starting December of her Junior year of high school.
Child number two of two is totally different. I woke up Tuesday night/Wednesday morning to notice that child two was not in bed. Wandered down to the kitchen where his computer is located to find him STILL on the computer at midnight. Told him to go to bed, he needs his rest. His response was no, it's still summer and he's going to make the most of the days he has left until school starts. Came back downstairs at 1 AM. Calmly asked him who he is talking to at 1 AM. Continued to have a conversation with child two until 2 AM. Bottom line: neither of us can put the other in his/her shoes since we are 32 years apart in age! I was not up until 2 AM when I was 16 years old! Made it understood that once school starts, he will not be up until all hours on the computer- no matter what his friends are doing! Last year, his computer was off at 9 PM unless homework was still being done on the computer. The bus comes at 6:50 AM which means rising at 6 and he gets home at 2:30 PM. Unless something drastic changes, child two has not been involved in after school activities, so can get homework done after school/early evening/ weekends. (He is supposed to do his homework BEFORE he chats with friends, except for a few minutes after school. How does one monitor that?) However, he has signed up for several AP classes this year, and must prepare for the SAT. He was also not allowed to have any electronic devices in his room after bedtime. He did not always follow this rule, and lost phone privileges for a LONG time last academic year.
I am at the point where I am about ready to say to him that he is on his own concerning his time management. He knows he controls his destiny with respect to if/where he continues his education after high school. We've had the latter conversation many times. But it's difficult for me to sit by and watch someone with so much potential spend so much time chatting about what?
What suggestions do other parents have on this issue?

Posted by: tiredmom | August 21, 2010 2:47 PM | Report abuse

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