SLEEP or rather the lack of it, is one of the first indications for us parents that something might be off kilter with our children. Stress is almost a necessary byproduct of the world we live in, an expected ‘trade-off’ for our technological progress: everything faster, louder and at the touch of a button – mind-boggling progress in return for a sometimes boggled mind.
As adults we are encouraged to put coping mechanisms in place to help mitigate its effects, to distract body and mind through physical and mental pursuits. This can be difficult for even the most mindful among us; for our children it’s harder still. The end result? Constant sensory overload can impact greatly on their mental wellbeing causing stress, depression, anxiety and sadness. More and more lie awake at night, unable to ‘switch off’ and many have a hard time letting go.
In general children today sleep one hour less than we did 25 years ago.
Turn on their inner dishwasher
Children need their sleep for many reasons. Mentally sleep works like an inner dishwasher and cleans out the great many processes in the brain used to process the information children are exposed to each and every day. Did you know that the brain is busier at night ‘mopping up’ than it is during the day? Physically, children need their sleep to grow and regain their strength and resilience, and studies show there is a link between obesity in children and lack of sleep. We also know that children who, over time, sleep too little can show symptoms we relate to children with ADHD, who by the way also often benefit from more sleep.
Of course, we cannot stop moving forward and we cannot change society overnight. What we can do however is teach our children how to ‘let go’ of the day that’s been and meditation can help them to do this.
So, wise parent, it’s time to wave your magic wand.
Help your child to dreamland with meditation
Child meditation can both prevent stress in children and help heal children who are already dealing with stress. When I started sharing beautiful heart meditations with my daughters, I was surprised to see how much they loved the interaction and how quickly they would fall asleep. As different as children are, almost every child delights in hearing about how much a parent or caregiver loves and treasures them. Even teenagers – to my surprise! – seem to be calmed by hearing meditations read aloud by their parents. No child really gets too old to enjoy hearing how loved they are. The best part is that your child learns to fill his or her own heart with love and discovers the power of self-loving.
Turn up the love
Self-esteem and self-love are invaluable life resources. We need to equip our children with these resources to enable them to navigate their way through life, to process the constant influx of information and to help them to recharge. By building strong self-esteem, by reminding children they are loved and by teaching them to turn up the love they have for themselves, we enable them to let go of their troubles before they fall asleep and drift off into worry-free slumber, their hearts full of love. By turning up the love for yourself before you go to sleep you tuck your self in an inner blanket of love. What nicer way to end one day before beginning the next?
Change your routine with ‘Hygge’
It’s all about the simple pleasures! When you start a new bedtime routine there is a good chance both you and your child will think it feels very early in the evening. And beginning bedtime in order for a school child to sleep enough can seem early. Don’t think of pre-bedtime prep as cutting your day short, make this your special ‘hygge time’ with your child – make the last hour before bedtime, the winding down for sleep, the best time of the day!
Determine how many hours sleep your child needs and when embarking on your new routine, pick a time when you feel good and have energy to help your child deal with a new method of falling asleep. Stay calm and loving in your energy even if your child has difficulties with the new method. Your energy, mood and way of communicating with your child highly affect how quickly he or she calms down.
Turn off all screens two hours before bedtime. Lie down next to your child and show him or her you have time to read in a calm and cosy way. Snuggle up and if you fall asleep yourself, that might be just what you need – listen to what your body is telling you.
Keep reading even if they fall asleep. They can still hear you and take the love with them into their dreams. In the days after, talk to your child about their experience with meditation; ask how it makes them feel. Listen to your child – there is a lot to learn. Encourage your child to draw the images or feelings he or she sees or experiences during meditation.
Enjoy the ride to heartland
Above all, enjoy the ride to heartland with your child. Learning meditation from a young age is a life long gift. My experience is that many children have a much easier time meditating than adults. And in many ways children can help their parents turn up the love for themselves as well. I always encourage parents to pay attention to their child in meditation and learn from them.
The human race is not meant for running without rest. We are meant to use energy and then rest to refuel; the resting part however is often overlooked. If you yourself have a hard time sleeping, there is a good chance you don’t have the necessary tools to help your child fall asleep. Lead by example. Get regular rest, be present and loving at bedtime, bring out the best in yourself, and through inner peace, love and self-love, you will encourage your child to do the same.