Going on a Magical, Mindful Vacation at Bedtime

Having trouble getting your kids to bed? Try taking them on a mindfulness vacation. It’s a great way to use your loving attention to help them wind-down from all the frenetic energy of the day and gently transition to sleep. Here is what I do with my daughter, who is a very reluctant sleeper:

First, we turn down the lights and decide where we are going. Jamaica is our favorite destination at the moment. Then we decide on a few things we might like to bring with us and pack our imaginary suitcases.

Next, we close our eyes and imagine that a magical wind has swept us up into the sky for a ride beneath the stars. (I am always careful to assure her that she is safe and comfortable and that she can safely return to her bedroom whenever she wants.)

Flying effortlessly through the night sky we notice what we see below us – the houses, the trees, the ocean. We look up and admire the canopy of stars twinkling above us.

When we see Jamaica we safely land on the beach and find a hammock strung between two palm trees. As we lay in our pretend hammock we take gentle, deep breaths in and out and slowly focus on our senses.

We smell the salty, sweet scents of the beach – the sand, the salt water the coconut sunscreen. We listen to the low roar of the ocean waves as the tide flows in and out from the shore. And maybe we hear a reggae band playing quietly in the distance. We look up at the stars and the palm branches swaying above us. We relax into the gentle swaying motion of the hammock kissed by the soft, warm Caribbean breeze.

We have nowhere to go, nothing to do. We just gently rock and breathe in and out. After a few breaths like this I say goodnight with a kiss on her forehead and remind her that in the morning she will wake up back in her own bed, safe and rested.

It only takes a couple of minutes to go on this journey together, and the benefits go far beyond merely getting my daughter to sleep.  As we lay in our imaginary hammock I know that she is strengthening the neural pathways in her brain that focus on sensory experiences, making it easier for her to focus on and filter the information delivered by those senses in real life. She is learning how to self-soothe. And she is gaining the resiliency that comes when children are confident of their parents’ love and acceptance. Today I am guiding her to her destination, but it won’t be long before she will be able to fly solo. I wonder where she’ll go.

Click here to link to my Favorite Stuff where you can find a collection of Meditations for Children to help you create your own Magical, Mindful Vacation at Bedtime.

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