My youngest son has always been a terrible sleeper. During his four years he has used every excuse in the book to avoid staying in his bed in the evening. There are fears that are genuine. There are problems that are less real, but nonetheless disruptive to the bedtime routine. Even when he falls straight to sleep when he goes to bed he’s usually back up again an hour later, crying and panicked about something he can’t express.
Since he started school at the end of last year, settling him has been an even bigger struggle some evenings; he has trouble quieting his mind. So much has happened in his little world at school and he needs to share it all and get it out of his head. And that takes time. Or, as I recently discovered, a cloud.
Inspired reading Calm Kids by Lorraine Murray (Amazon.com link here) I have been focussing on getting my sons to breathe, to really concentrate on their breathing, when they are upset, angry or overwhelmed. It’s the first step to handing them a tool that I hope they can use for the rest of their lives to help them create calm in their minds and relax their bodies. (I plan to write a review of Calm Kids: Help Children Relax with Mindful Activities soon – it’s a great read!)
One evening I went in to give my youngest a goodnight kiss and a cuddle after his story with papa. He certainly didn’t look like he had any intention of calling it a day and heading to ‘dreamland’. He was full of babbles and news over his day at school, not the big stuff he’d already told when he came home, but the little things he’d seen, experienced or suddenly remembered. Most of it wasn’t the nice, fun stuff but the jostles from another child, the unfriendly look from a classmate, a fall on the playground. All the negative things from his day that hadn’t bothered him during the afternoon or dinnertime suddenly took on a huge monster-like shape as he lay in bed. He tripped over his words trying to get it all out.
“Breathe slowly……. in through your nose, out through your mouth. Gently out,” I said to him.
“I can’t!” he replied.
We breathed together, in rhythm with each other. He got the hang of it, calmed and then smiled.
“Now, let’s put that unfriendly look from your friend on a cloud,” I suggested. So he mimed putting something on to a cloud in front of him.
“And now let’s blow it away. Gently….so it doesn’t fall off the cloud. Blow it high high high into the sky,” I said.
So he gently blew. And his smile grew wider. And then he chose something else to put on a cloud and he blew that away too. He lay in his bed smiling from ear to ear, visibly lightened. He gave me a kiss, turned over and went to sleep.
The next night was a similar pattern. I went to him and there was immediately lots of talking from him about his day. I gave him a kiss and said,
“Ok, it’s time to go to sleep. Time for quiet now. Close your eyes.”
“No! I want to put things on a cloud and blow them away first,” he replied.
So we did. And it’s now turning into a habit. A beautiful habit that clears his mind so he can get to sleep more easily.
Over to You: Have you tried meditation with your children? I would love to hear about your experiences and what has worked to calm your child. Do you meditate yourself?
*My illustrations (including the buckets available for the bucket activity) are lovingly drawn by my wonderfully creative husband!*