There is simply nothing more powerful than the bedtime story – especially in this age of continuous screen time. As we go deeper into the discussion, we start to see how the bedtime story is the perfect ending to the day. So let’s rethink and reclaim this special decompression time for both parent and child. It is not just something we are doing for our kids – the benefits accrue to us as well. We don’t read to, we read with.
Here are the five supporting reasons why the bedtime story is the most powerful family ritual:
1. End of day closure: The bedtime story can symbolically represent a closure point in our continuous, always-on, and endless days. Even our kids, as they enter grade school, are starting to feel pressures of a 24/7 world. Together we can start to wind down, letting go of the anxieties that can fill a day. For our kids, bathing, teeth brushing, and pajamas starts the slow-down process. For us parents, it is also important that we fully shift our attention and presence to this special time – treating it as uninterrupted, sacred space (leaving our device outside the room!).
2. Feeling safe and secure: There is probably no safer or secure feeling than to be snuggled with a parent – listening to their comforting voice. Bonding is magnified as a special story transports us to a world of possibility. Also, stress levels start to lower for both parent and child as a softer energy starts to surround us. To have this loving ritual repeated night after night promotes an unconditional love that protects our little ones from the inevitable feelings of vulnerability that define the human experience.
3. Healthy sleeping and better dreaming: Sleep specialists reveal how bedtime stories can help both child and parent get a good night sleep. It makes total sense. The loving voice tones of the parent can also create strong associations with sleep – slowing the brain down – and helping the child to let go of the day. As our young ones enter deeper sleep after storytelling, the brain continues to “play with” this new information -- imprinting the feelings, images and story patterns that have been heard. In other words, the powerful subconscious continues to do its magic as the child sleeps, setting the foundation to positively enter the next day.
4. Engaging the imagination: Bedtime stories are one of the best ways to stimulate a child’s imagination. Research reveals that reading a story is completely different than watching a TV show or movie. Listening to a story requires a more active participation as they use their mind to visualize what is happening and to think about what choices they would make if they were the character. These new ideas inspire our kids to imagine new realities and identities for themselves. Their favorite stories start to positively shape their own life story.
5. Connecting and empathizing: Just as stories help our kids create their sense of self, they also help them to empathize with others. Our young ones can find comfort in relating to a character in a story who is going through a similar challenge – whether it is a best friend moving away or the loss of a pet. Not surprisingly, stories can help our kids find the courage (and scripting) to deal with things that seemed too far out of their experience. For children in uncertain circumstances (like divorce or loss of a family member), a bedtime story can help them to start shaping a new reality. Still, the most precious forms of connection that bedtime stories facilitate is that between parent and child – one of the most powerful predictors of success and happiness in life for our kids.
Sweet dreams little ones!
Mike Morrison Ph.D.’s passion centers on developing leaders at all ages, from pre-schoolers to the corporate CEO leading a global enterprise. In today’s world, we all need to lead in some way and Mike has helped to illuminate that path through three books. His most recent book, Small Voice Says, a picture book for four to eight year-olds, is co-authored with his daughter Mackenzie.