You might question why bedtime is the parenting priority. Bedtime as a parenting priority doesn't appear to follow commonly-held beliefs such as encouraging your child to pick up a sport, eat well, follow their bliss with success, or be one of the good guys.
A nurturing bedtime can accomplish all those things and much more.
There are many studies about sleep habits and their effect on sports, diabetes and obesity, well-being, success, and relationships. Even your child growing up to be one of the good guys. Look them up. You'll see how important sleep and the bedtime routine that precedes it are.
This post is about something different. It's about why bedtime should be a parenting priority right now. Tonight, tomorrow night, and all the nights that follow.
But before you finish reading this, set this intention: tonight's the night you'll make bedtime your parenting priority.
To say the past few weeks have been difficult is an understatement. The global atmosphere crackles with fear and anxiety like summer lightning in a field. And like summer lightning in a field, there's nothing to ground it except the tallest object standing. Even though we know we're connected, it seems like the tallest object is your family.
There's no indication that it will be over very soon. At least in the United States where the election process for President has taken a bizarre turn. Someone who models negativity and selfishness has center stage. An election year where divisiveness is more prevalent than connection and vision.
How do we explain this to ourselves let alone our kids?
We are, in fact, living through collective PTSD with more trauma on the horizon.
Collective PTSD is real. This article from the American Academy of Experts in Traumatic Stress and this one by Robert D. Stolorow are only two of many that cover the reality of collective PTSD.
We're advised by wiser heads around us to make the choice of taking the high road. As this graphic from Starbucks reminds us we have choices every single day. We can choose community, compassion, and being an upstander over isolation, indifference, and being a bystander.
Parents know all about those choices. We know those flash decisions we make that are more important than long-range life plans for our kids. Grabbing a kid by the collar or arm or whatever's closest if they impulsively run into traffic. Those moments when your kid is pushing all your buttons but you choose to connect in a loving relationship with caring boundaries rather than anger. That's intuitive work. That's parenting that comes from the heart. There's no super-scheduler app that can do that work for us.
What about the really big scary things? There's no What to Expect When You're Expecting Global Trauma guidebook with an accompanying checklist.
So right now, even the most peaceful household is managing the energy of free-floating anxiety on top of those more "local" anxieties that accompany parenting. Parents feel it, kids feel it, neighbors and strangers are feeling it.
The lightning of global anxieties and fears can be catching.
And that's why bedtime is the most important priority for parenting right now. It is a sacred time to set aside and connect. Affirming that your children are loved and that they are safe. Setting up a journey to sleep so that the next day everyone's a little bit more peaceful, a little bit stronger, a little bit more in tune with processing what's been going on "out there".
Bedtime is not the time to discuss the feelings that we're all having. Feeling those feelings, listening to our kids talk about them is important. Save it for the day.
Dr. Laura Markham of Aha! Parenting has excellent advice about how to discuss police brutality in age-appropriate ways here. Her advice about the Boston Marathon bombing is helpful as well.
Bedtime happens. It's inevitable. We all have to sleep. Unlike eating a slice of pizza for dinner while we go to band practice, it's impossible to multi-task. This is your best opportunity to connect with your children.
Bedtime is the time when parents and caregivers set aside intentional time for an intimate, quiet family gathering. Bedtime is the time when we tap into our best selves so we can have sweet dreams. Bedtime is when we release the day in love and gratitude so we are prepared in the best possible way for restorative sleep.
It doesn't have to take very long. Just setting an intention to connect through a poem, a prayer, a promise that your child is honored, loved, and safe at bedtime is the only priority.
You can find loads of practical tips and facts about how to get to sleep on the Sleepytime Club blog or Twitter feed as well as on the Internet. But only you - right now, tonight - can use your parenting super-Spidey powers to be with your child in a moment of healing grace.
It's up to those of us who love children and have great dreams for the next generation. Which is why setting an intention to release the day's events at bedtime is our most important parenting priority.
Enjoy this free guided meditation for those times during the day when things get a bit overwhelming.