One of my most cherished childhood memories is the goodnight ritual I had with my dad. It was a moment of connection between the two of us at the end of each day and it meant the world to me. It simply involved being tucked into bed with a hug and a kiss. My dad would always liven things up by making funny faces and there was usually some tickling involved. It is very hard to kiss someone good night when you are laughing, but I loved it. When we were done playing he would tuck me in and turn out the light with the words, “Night night, sleep tight.”
A bedtime ritual can be a power tool of connection with your children. It doesn’t have to be long, or complex, in fact the simpler the better. I created bedtime rituals for each of my children at a very early age. Our routine went something like this
- Everyone scampering up the stairs with me in hot pursuit threatening to tickle their feet.
- Bath time with lots of splashing and play
- Story time with an abundance of cuddles and wonderful books
- Tucking them into bed with a hug, a kiss and a prayer.
- Lingering for quiet conversation
When I first created this ritual I must admit I did it for myself. I knew that a routine like this would help my children get ready to sleep at the same time each night. This meant I would have some alone time in the evening, something that is important for every parent. However I soon discovered that it also provided a quiet space at the end of the day for a special time of connection. I wouldn’t have traded it for anything.
It’s not difficult to create a bedtime ritual. Here are a few tips
- Give yourself plenty of time to walk through the routine without hurrying. You never know when this will be the one night your child needs to talk about something really important, is in need of some affirmation and reassurance, or simply wants to be held for a while. This time together is precious, so enjoy it while it lasts.
- Try to follow the same basic routine each night, but stay flexible. Let your child guide the process. Maybe they will need a few extra stories to calm down tonight, or want to talk to you about something. Don’t rush it.
- Include some physical contact. We are social animals and physical touch has both mental and physical benefits. Welcome touch like a hug, a kiss, or a gentle massage will benefit both children and parents.
- Include at least one story, as reading together has magical powers of connection.
- Make it fun and encourage laughter. Being tickled, chased into the bedroom, or making funny faces will make this time memorable. It will also be something you both enjoy.
- If you have several children you can gather in one place for most of the ritual, but do spend some time with each child as you tuck them in and say good night.
- Let your ritual evolve as your children grow up. There will come a time when your children will feel that they are too old for a bedtime routine. Be respectful of their wishes, but make sure that you still make time for a moment of connection as they go to bed. You might provide a last snack and hang around in the kitchen for conversation. It’s amazing how profound those talks can be. Otherwise a hug and word of affirmation as your older child goes off to bed can provide a much-needed moment together.
Do you have a bedtime ritual? What do you do? How does it help you connect with your children? Do you have questions? Please join in the conversation.“Much of my reading time over the last decade and a half has been spent reading aloud to my children. Those children’s bedtime rituals of supper, bath, stories, and sleep have been a staple of my life and some of the best, most special times I can remember.” Louise Brown