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Sleep, Children, Sleep ...

 


by Mary Thienes- Schunemann

The average human being sleeps a third

of their life. When you think about the span of our lives, that is a lot of time spent sleeping! For the growing child, from

birth through teenage years, this time of sleeping is critically important. Sleep provides nourishment for the next day physically, emotionally and spiritually. Paying special attention to how we send

our children into their sleep and receive them back in the morning can bring them health giving forces for life.

 

Let the rule be: creating peaceful, calm

moods and soft gentle impressions at these most precious times of day and night. This rules out television and radios! Children are especially sensitive and more open to impressions when going to sleep and upon waking. Therefore a great responsibility rests on parents and teachers to create calm moods and meaningful rituals with our children at these times of day. Children and adults alike are enriched and nourished by such time spent together. 

Many children today are sleep deprived. This can be for many reasons. There are all sorts of disturbances which can prevent children from having a truly restful sleep. Here are some ideas on how to construct this time so that it can be happy and peaceful for everyone.

Repetition and rhythm strengthen the will power and the rhythmic system, as well as creating comfort and a sense of security. To build a rhythm we must make great efforts to do things at the same time each day. Living into healthy habits before bed can create strength for both child and adult. Begin by ordering the childís room and clothing together. The act of ordering before sleep helps the child develop self-discipline and a caring attitude for their environment, home and classroom. 

There may be bath time or washing up time, then brushing teeth. Water play can be a joy-filled and important time for children. I lived in Finland for a year, and everyone in the community washed and did long saunas every Saturday night. It was a joyful, fun time for everyone in the community, and greatly anticipated during the week. 

The intimacy of sharing a story and talking together can smooth away even the most rushed day. When children are young, they love to hear stories told from memory, and often the same one told night after night! A story told from memory can allow the child to create their own inner pictures, rather than receiving fixed ones from a book. As children grow older they enjoy the longer, more involved chapter stories. 

Singing lullabies with your child can help them relax peacefully into sleep. You will find over time, that you will be inspired and may remember lullabies from your own childhood, You may find that you even begin to create new ones which your children will especially love and ask for again and again! I had a friend who sang the same good night song to her son for eighteen years until he left home! He would still ask for it in his late teenage years! Amazing! 

Just as a child benefits from meaningful ritual before going to sleep, so do they benefit from a gentle waking. Find ways in your home and classroom to awaken the children, by singing or playing a soft instrument. We know as adults how important this waking time is in setting the mood and tone of our day. It is also so for the children. Let us bless out homes and classrooms with peace and joy at these spirit filled times of day and night!            

                        Helpful Ideas for Sleeping and Waking

Creating new and wonderful ways to help our children embark  

 on a peace-filled sleep and dream journey that will build a  

healthy sleep-life for life!

1. Rhythm! Creating a bedtime/rest-time schedule and sticking to it is important for all ages of children. Sleep requirements for children of all ages are huge! Eleven to twelve hours per night are recommended. Our two year old daughter goes to bed at 7 p.m. most every night. Early bedtimes suit children best and they can also give mom and dad treasured adult time together, and teacher some rest as well.  

2.  Try eating light foods and little sugar after 6 pm. Many families eat large meals with protein and sugary desserts for their evening meal. This can be taxing for the liver, and can lead to indigestion and nightmares, especially for the young child whose digestive system is still developing and strengthening. Try eating a lighter evening meal of fruits, vegetables, or warm vegetable soup and bread. This can make a  tremendous difference for the whole family. It will also be easier to wake up in the morning, because you havenít spent the whole night trying to break down hard-to-digest foods.    

3.  Create meaningful habits before bedtime or rest time. Lighting a special candle, telling a story, sharing thoughts about the day, and saying evening prayers together can create a wonderful intimacy for everyone. 

4.  Many children are afraid of the dark. Nightlights left on all night can be harmful for the development of the retina. Try leaving a light on in the hallway. Hearing mom or dad singing or humming in the next room can be very comforting as well. 

5.  Giving a hot water bottle or a relaxing massage with lavender and chamomile oil can be wonderfully soothing.  

6.  Make sure the walls of the room are calming. Do take down any loud images or pictures. Find beautiful ways to decorate the room, hanging silk cloths from the ceiling, and a lovely mobile with angels or golden stars.  Children can find this very comforting. (I have a friend in Finland with a son who had trouble sleeping, so they started hanging up the most beautiful angels they could find around his bed and he was soon able to slip comfortably into sleep again.) In our home we have hung a large rainbow silk cloth over our daughterís bed with a blue and rose colored star hanging from it, which she loves and delights in. 

We cannot underestimate the significance of the transition we make from our waking to our sleeping life and back to our waking life again. How we enter and leave the realm of sleep, dreams and the Spirit World can give us all the strength and courage we need to do our work here upon this wonder-filled Earth!

So, enjoy the night and wake up peacefully!Ö                               

P.S. Sometimes the hardest thing to do is to begin! We can find a thousand reasons to not begin! As I was walking today I realized, to my astonishment, that I stop singing when Iím tired. Singing when we are fatigued can actually help us wake up and feel more alive! Singing can rejuvenate and restore us! Even I forget this sometimes! So begin! Öand you will feel, over time how singing can bring health-giving life forces to accompany us through our days and nights!

 

Mary Thienes Schunemann has a bachelor's degree in Psychology, a musical instructor for LifeWays childcare trainings, is a Waldorf Teacher, music educator, singer, composer, inspired mother and homemaker! She teaches singing workshops around the country, and gives private music lessons in her home in southeastern Wisconsin. She is the president of the Rafael Foundation for New Impulses in Music, and is the director of the women's vocal ensemble Avalon a cappella. She works out of the principles of the School of Uncovering the Voice, and has studied singing extensively in Europe and America since 1989. 

Reprinted by Expressed Permission 

 

Click on the links to read our articles by 

and about Mary Thienes-Schunemann

 

Nurturing the Soul : Sing a Song with Baby

 

Singing Children, Happier Children

 

Lullabies are Love Songs

by Michaela Glockler M.D.


 


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