Sunday, August 28, 2011

Training Happy Hearts in Young Children Through Bedtime Blessings

Last week, Diana commented on The Holy Water Font – A Hands On Tool for Training Happy Hearts in Young Children that she was thinking of filling a font that she had placed in the hallway between her children’s bedrooms with Holy Water so that they could bless themselves before bed and upon waking, but that she had no idea if that was appropriate.

I responded that although I am not a theologian, I cannot see why having her children bless themselves at bedtime and upon waking would be inappropriate.  I went on to encourage her to take the blessing one step further by blessing her children herself before bedtime.

So sprung the idea for this week’s edition of Training Happy Hearts in Young Children:   

Bedtime Blessings.

The Bible contains examples of parents blessing their children.  (Think Isaac and his sons or Joseph and his sons.)  It also explains how Jesus blessed children. (Mark 10: 13-16).  The Catechism of the Catholic Church says, “…every baptized person is called to be a "blessing," and to bless…” (CCC 1669)  Thus, as we continue exploring ways that we can help our youngest ones in their own faith formation journeys, might I suggest beginning the tradition of a simple bedtime blessing?

We have been using blessing our children as a part of their bedtime routine in our home for several years now:

I draw a cross on my child’s head while praying, “In the Name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, dear Lord, please bless my (name of child).”  Then, I lay my hand over the child’s heart, saying, “Holy Spirit keep working in (name of child)’s heart and Jesus know s/he loves you.”  I, then, kiss my child’s forehead. 

Through this simple prayer, I not only ask God’s blessing for my children, but also, hopefully, help my children to internalize the concept of the Trinity and of how God works in them as they love Him.

Please feel free to borrow or adapt our family’s bedtime blessing for the young ones in your life.

You might also try simply laying your hands on your children, or drawing the Sign of the Cross on them, and then saying, “May the Lord bless you and give you peace."

Or, you might choose a verse from the Bible and personalize it as a blessing targeted toward a certain habit or need.  For example, you might adapt parts of Ephesians 4:8 for a child who needs to learn to use words – and do so kindly – by praying, “Dear Lord, please bless (child’s name).  Help him avoid unwholesome talk and teach him to speak only what is helpful and builds others up.”

Or, perhaps you’d like to craft a lengthier and more personal blessing following a basic template, such as:

  • the Name of your child – “Jack,”
  • a Special Quality your child possesses – "We love you.  God gave you such a generous smile.”
  • a General Timeless Blessing You Would Like for Your Child – "May you always know the joy and peace of God’s love within you and continue to smile as you grow in your relationship with God.  May you always know His will in your heart and have confidence in the choices you make in your life.
  • a Specific Blessing Statement that Can Change Over Time – “May you sleep soundly tonight, even though you are not feeling so well.”
  • a Prayer for Protection – "And, may you remain safe and protected for all the days of your life.
  • Conclusion – “In the Name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit.  Amen."

Whatever you choose to do or say for a bedtime blessing, it is sure to become a ritual that brings the children in your life and you closer together.    

Today, I encourage you to think about your own family’s bedtime routine and your comfort level with praying together out loud.  Then, listen for God whisper in your own heart to guide you towards the specific that may be right for you and yours.

I’d love to hear about your experiences.  Share your bedtime prayer rituals, you favorite words of blessings for children.  I also welcome you to leave questions or thoughts on other topics about training young children up to love and live the faith.  And, please continue to join us each Sunday for new thoughts, tips and sharing about Training Happy Hearts: A Call to Faith Formation for Young Children.  


Unknown said...

Hi there,
I just discovered your blog and am so glad I did-you have wonderful ideas to share! Seeing your interest in faith formation and Montessori, I was curious if you had any experience with the Catechesis of the Good Shepherd? It is a program that grew out of Maria Montessori's ideas for(Catholic) religious instruction, articulated and expanded by a woman named Sofia Cavalleti. It is a truly beautiful approach to christian formation and very much in line with your philosophy-if you haven't heard of it i think you would love it. I am a Montessori teacher myself and feel as if the Catechesis of the Good Shepherd is in many ways the completion of Montessori's ideal to educate the "whole child"..anyhoo love your blog!

Martianne said...

Thank you. I am glad you like our little blog. And, yes, I have heard of CGS. I was excited by it when I first heard about it, but since there are no atriums around me and since I cannot afford training, I let the thought of introducing it my my children go for a while. Then, I kept thinking about it again, so I purchased a couple books and did a lesson or two at home. They went well, but, unfortunately, I was not organized enough to keep going with it. One of my intentions this year is to get back to it. It seems like such a wonderful way to introduce and deepen faith within young children and I know God will make my meager attempts more whole as I wrote about in this post:


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