Bedtime rituals are important in all phases of life. From helping soothe a new born to sleep, to relaxing bedtime rituals for young children, and the nightly tuck in for older children. Even adults have important bedtime rituals. Whether it is special pajamas, bedtime music, or a bedtime short story, these series of actions let us know that it is time to settle down and relax so that we can welcome sleep. They also help us recognize that we are safe and feel comforted and happy before we settle in for a night full of what we want to be good dreams. For many, thinking back to bedtime in their childhood will help them feel loved and that is a wonderful thing. Here I will discuss a bit about the benefits of bedtime rituals and share an excerpt from a best selling book on the subject.
The Importance of Relaxing Bedtime Rituals
There are the parts of our bedtime rituals that are purely functional- brushing our teeth, setting our alarm clocks, etc. They need to be done and in doing them we let our bodies know that it is time to relax and prepare for sleep.
But the bedtime rituals have the potential to be so much more than just functional! Bedtime rituals can have many benefits and be a source of well being. As a child, bedtime is a special time when you should feel loved and attended to. This helps set the child up for a restful night of sleep, which is important for improved mood, concentration, and athletic performance. Bedtime rituals offer the opportunity to reset with love and support so that the child may rest easy.
As Psych Central says, “Bedtime is a daily opportunity to build and nurture your relationship with your child. There’s something about a quiet darkened room that invites conversation. This is a time to take stock, to snuggle, to conversation about some of the important things that your child is thinking about. When children know that bedtime is a time when you give a few minutes of undivided attention, they often save up their most sensitive questions for sharing. Yes, sometimes they’ll use it to hang onto you when you really want to get to your own projects or the newspaper. Calmly set some limits and carry on. This is the real stuff of parenting — building your child’s sense of personal value, answering the big questions, teaching your values through stories and conversation.”
That was so well put I had to include it all! Most parents will tell you that tucking their children in can take awhile but the bedtime connection is special, fun time that should be cherished and has enormous benefits.
The Sanctity Of Bedtime Connection And Bonding
I was speaking with Genevieve Piturro who founded the national nonprofit, Pajama Program and she understands firsthand, “the profound meaning of a loving mom at my bedside as I drifted off to dream.” In fact she says that, “it’s this sacred, quiet bonding time that lays the foundation for a child’s self-worth and self-love that gives us the strength to move past obstacles and challenge as we grow into adulthood.” That sounds like a description of good parenting and love and when you think about it, that is exactly what is happening at bedtime when you both slow down together and focus on each other as parent and child.
Genevieve Piturro has published an Amazon best seller new book called, Purpose, Passion and Pajamas. It is about her journey founding and growing Pajama Program. I am very excited to share with you that I have been permission to share an excerpt form her new book with you here. It’s about how the sanctity of bedtime between mother and child can impact not only the child’s life decisions as an adult, but also impact millions of others as a result.
PURPOSE, PASSION AND PAJAMAS: How to Transform Your life, Embrace the Human Connection and Lead with Meaning
River Grove Books; Illustrated edition (July 28, 2020)
By Genevieve M. Piturro
Purpose, Passion and Pajamas Excerpt
Her big brown eyes were locked on the pretty pink pajamas I held out to her, but she hesitated to take them.
“Don’t you want these?” I gently asked.
She glanced from the pink flannel to the other children who held their new nightwear. At this shelter and after-school program in New York City, there were about 12 children in all, many here because of abusive or absent fathers, or mothers who were battered or headed for drug rehab—or prison. The girl looked cautiously at me kneeling in front of her, ridiculously overdressed in my corporate pantsuit. She turned to watch the other children head to the back room with their garments.
Then she looked at me again.
“What are they?” she whispered.
“They’re pajamas,” I said.
“Where do I wear them?”
“To bed at night.”
She shook her head, puzzled.
“What do you usually wear to sleep?” I asked.
“My pants,” she said softly, tugging on her too-tight, too-short,
I tried to make sense of what she’d just said. My mind was racing. Surely, I’d heard her wrong. I needed a minute to rewind our conversation, to put it right in my mind. And I needed to keep from crying before she thought she’d done something wrong. My brain scrambled to steady itself and respond in a way that didn’t show her how shaken I was, how upside down everything had become.
“Well, now you don’t have to wear your pants to bed,” I said.
“Tonight, you can wear these soft, pretty pajamas.”
Her face registered little emotion as she tentatively accepted the gift. A staff member and I found a private place where she could change. In what seemed like slow motion, we watched as the most precious smile appeared on her face, and a tiny giggle escaped. The staffer took her hand and led her into the other room to sleep. Then my tears came. And I let them. I didn’t know it then, but it was in that moment, the most poignant I’ve ever experienced, that Pajama Program was born. With that little girl, I found my true purpose in life, a purpose that would propel me day and night. It was also then that I realized there is enough in this world—more than enough, in fact—to fix situations like this.
Over the next several weeks, I visited and read with different groups in the New York City area. I quickly realized the emotional impact these children had on me. I was drawn to them in a protective way, and my need to comfort them felt overwhelming. There was something just so right about it all. Every time I had to leave, I had a difficult time finding the right words to say goodbye to the children. I hated these last moments because I felt I was leaving them alone and afraid. I knew most, if not all, of them would be gone the next time I came, and a new set of abandoned or abused children would be listening to me. The prospect was deeply upsetting. I made sure my goodnights were cheerful and warm. I couldn’t let my sad feelings show after filling their heads with so many happy endings. Still, I felt like a fraud, pretending tomorrow might be full of sunshine and happiness when I knew I couldn’t deliver either.
As affecting as these experiences were for me, I grew restless. I couldn’t stop thinking that maybe I could do more than simply read. I felt guilty walking out after an hour, leaving them with only books and a memory of story time. How much was I really helping? Was it more unsettling to them that I left them, too? Books had always been an escape for me as a child, but the discontentment that made me reach for a book was nothing compared to what these children were hoping to escape. Was I fooling myself thinking I was doing something that made a difference? I continued my visits, reading to the children in a circle on the floor, and looking for a way to do more. Surely I’d find it.
As a child, I loved the coziness and comfort of bedtime. In addition to the many books she read us, my mom made up her own funny bedtime stories. To this day, one very special story brings tears to my eyes, filling me with so much love and gratitude for my mother who, even now, is the person I want when I can’t sleep. The story is about a little boy eating a candy bar with peanuts when one peanut comes alive and shouts, “Don’t eat me, don’t eat me!” That always made us giggle and demand of our mother,
“Tell us again, tell us again!”
All the laughing and hugging tired us out and sleep quickly followed. I was always conscious of our family’s financial limitations, and it was obvious to me that most of my friends had more than I did. We had bag lunches and were rarely given money for hot lunches; we got new store-brand clothes, but only at the start of the school year and again at Easter, and the items were always on sale. But we had one thing in abundance—we had love.
The Heart of the Matter:
• Learn from your childhood lessons.
Life tends to come full circle. I see now it was the foundation of my mother’s love and my parents’ commitment to us—as well as the sacrifices we made—that helped me to see clearly when everything I thought I wanted was challenged. That foundation drove me to find my true passion in pajamas. My mother’s expressions of love helped me identify exactly what was missing in that little girl’s life. And my father’s insistence on education and hard work showed me how to provide not only for myself but also for others—helping me redefine what it means to be a “family.”
• Examine the way you’ve “always” done things.
Partly because of my family’s hard work and sacrifices, I sometimes felt I didn’t have enough. As a result, I started out in my career by focusing too much on what I wanted in terms of wealth and material possessions—money, clothes, apartment, travel. Soon the polish wore off those pursuits, however, and I was left unfulfilled. I knew I needed a change.
• Don’t let tradition hold you back from your true purpose.
We were raised to work hard and respect our family, and I spent many years fulfilling the role of dutiful daughter in my traditional Italian family, which included having successful career, well-appointed condo, and nice clothes. I had no idea I would need to let those markers of success go when I first stepped into that homeless shelter to read bedtime stories to children. But I did let them go, and that opened the way to being free to pursue new goals, ones that would give my life meaning.
I hope you enjoyed this inspiring excerpt from Genevieve Piturro’s book, Purpose, Passion and Pajamas. You can learn more about her work or order a copy of her book through her website. This year, the Pajama Program celebrates its 20th anniversary, having delivered more than 7 MILLION magical gifts of new pajamas and new books to children through their 63 chapters across the U.S.
She has been interviewed on and in many local and national media including most recently, Hallmark’s
Home & Family show, OPRAH, TODAY, GMA, The Early Show, CNN, Fox & Friends, O Magazine, Forbes,
The Wall Street Journal, and Parenting Magazine. Here is the Oprah clip for your viewing pleasure:
In conclusion, bedtime rituals are the perfect opportunity to establish a wonderful bonding time for parent and child. Relaxing bedtime rituals can help the child destress, feel safe, and feel loved so that they can get the most out of a peaceful night’s sleep and be ready to meet the new challenges in each day. What types of bedtime rituals do you have with your child? Do you think this special bedtime connection helps improve their resilience?