By Diana Parente

In this hectic world we now live in, it is more important than ever to make a true, heart-to-heart connection with our children. I have found that the bedtime hour in my home has been a wide open door into my child’s heart and mind. Those minutes prior to lights out have provided me with the opportunity to not only listen to my son, but also to really hear and understand how he thinks, how he feels and how he perceives the world around him. During these relaxed, non-threatening moments, you may be privy to some vital event that happened during the school day, or something that has made your child angry, sad, or happy. Some of my son’s most thought provoking questions on life and spirituality have come when he’s laying on his pillow, preparing for dreamland. Here are some tips for really making bedtime count in your home:

* Ask specific questions. What was the best thing that happened to you today? What was the least favorite thing about your day?

* Read a book or Bible story. Encourage your child to ask you anything they want about what was just read. If you’re unsure of the answer, let them know you will do your best to find out and get back to them; then follow through with it.

* In our home, we pray for our children every night. If faith is a part of your family’s structure, have your child pick one person they would like to pray a simple prayer for, and them allow to pray in their own way, with their own words. It doesn’t have to be complicated, and now is not the time for correcting anything they have said.

* Re-assure your children that they can always talk to you about anything. Not only does this foster a greater trust between parent and child, but at night time, when their imaginative minds can sometimes bring bad dreams, the more they can talk and release the things that are bothering them, the better sleep they will have.

Establishing a new routine will take some adjustment and time, but it will be well worth the effort. In the mornings, my son remembers almost everything we talked about the night before. Make a lasting impression upon your child tonight, by making bedtime count.

My husband Tony and I are licensed lay ministers; we have served as youth leaders, facilitators of children’s church, and currently serve as elders at an inner city ministry. Here, we facilitate the Teaching/Discipleship ministry at our church. Tony also works in sales. We have 2 children; one boy, Daniel, who is in kindergarten, and Abigail, who is 16 months, home with Mom.