Part 2 of the ‘Passing On The Beauty of Our Catholic Faith‘ series
Bedtime can be a challenging time for families with young children. I know it is for ours.
Part of our challenge stems from children’s perception that the act of sleeping is a form of separation, a sort of detachment, from the joys and excitement of this grand adventure called life.
But once we get our children to put on their pajamas, get their teeth brushed and faces washed, we can slowly ease into our night time routine. Having a calm and relaxing routine helps our children face bedtime peacefully and with a lot less anxiety.
Bedtime also forces us busy parents to begin winding down with our little ones. In his early work entitled “Help For Catholic Parents,” Fr. Brett Brannen writes, “experts agree that the last ten minutes before a child goes to sleep is a time they are most open to formation.”
As parents, we want to take every chance we can to make a mark on our precious children’s souls. And bedtime is a perfect opportunity to do so.
1. Night Prayers
Night prayers are a perfect way to wrap up the day. I know many Catholic families who pray the rosary in the evening, shortly after dinner, so the children (and grown-ups!) are not too tired to pray along.
However, in our family, we typically pray the rosary as part of our night time routine. This is because the rosary seems to have a very calming effect on our children and helps them to wind down after a busy day.
Other nightly devotions may include Examination of Conscience, Act of Contrition, Compline from the Liturgy of the Hours and the Guardian Angel Prayer.
As I mentioned in my previous post, it is important that you choose nightly prayers that work well with the dynamic of your family.
2. Five Blessings & Emotions of The Day
Before going to bed, we try to ask our children five blessings that they are most thankful for.
I love listening to my children during this time because it reminds me of how many small blessings I take for granted everyday.
This is also the opportune time to ask my children if there’s anything that made them happy, sad or anxious that day.
By doing so, they will remember that we took the time to listen and will cherish this memory when they grow older and have families of their own.
3. My Guardian Angel’s Chair
If children have a difficult time being left alone in the bedroom, parents can pull up a chair and remind them that it is where their Guardian Angel is sitting to watch over them throughout the night.
In our home, we simply put an extra pillow at the foot of the bed or right next to the child and remind them that their guardian angel is sitting close by, loving them, watching over them, and protecting them at all times.
4. Father’s Blessing
When everyone is tucked in, my husband comes in the room, gets a dab of Holy Water and traces a cross on each child’s forehead. While doing so, he says “Good night, God bless you, I love you.”
This is also the time they can get their goodnight hugs and any conversations they may want to have with their Papa. The Father’s Blessing is also the official way we close the night at our home.
Once Papa’s blessing has been given, the children stay in bed until they drift off to sleep.
5. Sacred Images
Having sacred images in each child’s room helps tremendously during bedtime. According to Fr. Brannen, children have a tendency to associate sacred images with comfort and security. A crucifix could be hung above each doorway.
Some families use a Guardian Angel statue or a Blessed Mother nightlight. While our family is fond of using glass candles with sacred images, we make it a point to use only battery-operated tea lights for safety reasons.
During thunderstorms, one of the first things we do is to “light” our Sacred Heart Candle as a beautiful reminder to our children that Jesus is The Light of the World!
These simple yet profound practices have truly helped our little ones peacefully drift off to sleep.
And instead of looking at it as a challenge, I have learned to view our bedtime routine as a wonderful opportunity to pass on our faith to our children… a time when they can associate our beautiful faith with feelings of comfort, calm, security and peace.
Some excerpts are taken from “Help For Catholic Parents” by Rev. Fr. Brett Brannen. Used With Permission.