So, adults generally agree on the importance of children’s intellectual development. Throughout the day, we are creating a multitude of opportunities for learning, both intentional and unintentional. Helping a child expand his mind and grow cognitively is essential, but so is something else- developing his character and supporting his social/emotional development. Oh, my. There’s a tall order.
In our day-to-day, multitasking, so-much-on our-plate society, adults often have trouble taking a moment to reflect on how they themselves are handling their own emotions and social interactions, let alone someone else’s. But, you better believe that children are watching it all and learning from us… the good, the bad, and often, the ugly.
We must be more intentional about cultivating the things that will ultimately help children to be better human beings- the way they treat other people, the tone and attitude they will someday use in their own homes, the way they will handle their relations with family, and the way they will engage with their communities.
Well, now. That’s easier said than done. And, when during a family’s busy day, can this best be accomplished? Experts say there are three specific times that have the best potential for a meaningful connection between parent and child… in the first 15 minutes after a child gets home from school, at the family dinner table, and just before bed.
In many homes, those first two opportunities may be unfeasible, due to two working parents, as well as children’s afterschool and evening activities.
That leaves bedtime. I know. By the end of the day, you just want that bedtime routine (bath, book, and bed) to be over, so you have a few minutes to yourself to unwind. But really, you can’t miss this one! This is THE daily chance for parents to strengthen their connection with their children and nourish habits of settling down, reflecting, and feeling gratified by the positive things and people in their lives.
The bedtime should begin with reading stories. This not only provides the opportunity for emotional bonding between parent and child, but also promotes language development. And, reading helps create a sense of calm that can lead to a conversation about the events of the day.
I remember the after-story, bedtime chats I had with my own sons. The light was turned out and we would discuss all sorts of things. Sometimes, we would start out with another story- something impromptu I would make up as I went along. This storytelling was always a favorite, because the outcome would always be a surprise (even to me!) Or, we would play a couple rounds of word games. A favorite was the opposites game. One of us would say a word and the other had to come up with the opposite. I was always amazed by the proficiency of their vocabulary after playing this over time.
Then, it was time to discuss our day. There’s something about talking in the dark that removes inhibition and encourages free communication. Sometimes they would share things that were bothering them and we could talk it out together. During the course of the conversation, I would always try to pick up on something positive they did that day and point that out. Then, we would each have to think of something or someone who made us happy that day. This progression always seemed to put my children in a happy frame of mind, leading to a restful night’s sleep. I was also confident that their day ended with positive vibes and feeling thankful for the good things in their life.
And, just before their eyes closed, there came that precious time when “I love you’s” were exchanged… the words every child needs to hear unconditionally, every night.
Making the most of your child’s bedtime. Are you down for that?