Routines, Rituals and Sleep: Creating Safety at Home
God’s enduring nature
There are many aspects of the nature and character of God that I appreciate. I revel in his compassion, I am deeply grateful for his mercy, and I am empowered by his boldness. I have learned to trust in the dependency of the nature and character of God above all else. His person will never change, and I can fully count on Him to remain faithful throughout time. In fact, I have learned to rest in His nature and faithfulness. When striving rises in me, I return to his presence and to His embrace and receive what He has already accomplished for me - without any assistance on my part. As His child, I know that I can fully trust him, because he never fails me.
How do I know this? Why can I believe this? I believe it because I have experiential knowledge of God’s nature. I can retell firsthand accounts of his miracle power. I have seen him heal the sick, and so I believe he is a healer. I have seen him bring prodigal sons home, and therefore, I believe he reaches the lost. I have experienced his mercy after a failure, and for this reason I know that God forgives and lavishes his mercy upon his children.
I did not learn these principles alone, however.
I learned this trust first at the knees of parents who demonstrated it to me on a daily basis. I learned that God was Yaweh Jireh, the Lord who provides, because each day my mother and father provided satisfying meals for me. I never went hungry, and because of that, I knew that I could trust the hand of God to provide for me. I learned that God was the Lord of the wind and waves as I watched my parents pray through both natural storms, tornados included, and emotional storms. In dark moments, I learned of the Christ who spoke to the winds and waves, because I listened to my father and mother pray confidently in the God who sees and answers. As I grew, I began to pray with confidence, because I had heard them pray and had learned by heart those words of faith. I learned that the God we serve keeps his promises, because my father showed up to my events and my mother filled my drawers with clean clothes, and they blessed me at every opportunity they had.
Because they did, I believed God had as well.
Create routines and rituals that children can depend on.
There is safety and security in a predictable environment. Even we adults can attest to the difference in atmospheres when our workplace has routines and rituals that we can count upon from day to day. We can also admit how stressful a chaotic work environment can be. Many of us have experienced environments where the boss was hectic, unprepared and ill-informed. In meetings, we never know which boss we are going to get - the cool and collected one or the crazy, emotional basket-case. This lack of trust creates stress in our minds, emotions and bodies. In contrast, when a leader is calm, helpful and knowledgeable, we learn to trust and follow, and we may even learn to flourish and grow.
The same is true for children. As a foster and adoptive mother of abuse and neglect victims, my children have lived terrorized lives. Many of them did not receive the daily care that is considered normal - baths, meals, hugs, bedtimes were nonexistent in their previous lives. Many of them had to feed and clothe themselves and get themselves and siblings ready for school in the morning. Many of them had to learn how to avoid adults or appease rage. These children acclimated to an environment where they had to deceive and escape to survive.
When they enter my home, many are shocked by the routines and rituals they experience there. At first, they reject bedtime and wake up time, because they have never had an adult set healthy boundaries for them. They rebel against personal hygiene and healthy food, because they have no concept about what is truly good for them. Yet, with time, as they are retrained to expect food on the table, clothes in their drawers, hugs and kindness, and consequences for poor choices, their minds begin to heal. As they get plenty of sleep in warm beds without being woken by screaming and violence, they learn to rest through the night without fear. This takes time, but is completely possible for every child.
For those of you who are raising your own children, I want to encourage you to do the same for your kids as we do for ours. Children flourish in predictable environments with firm boundaries and bedtimes. Children need sleep so that their brains can function at a learning capacity. They need routines and rituals that they can depend upon, especially in the chaotic world in which they find themselves. If children are not given the boundaries that they need, they will feel unsafe, and will manifest behaviors that align with their emotions. A lack of safety in a child may look like rebelion, but the truth is they need well communicated boundaries in order to follow the rules we have for them. A child may be angry and disruptive every morning because they are not getting enough sleep. His behavior may look like obstinance, but the underlying cause is lack of enforced bedtimes.
We can either help or hinder our children.
As adults, we must examine our choices and how those impact our children. The children in our lives are learning what God looks like, sounds like and acts like by watching us. We have a divinely given duty and privilege to demonstrate his nature to them. Are they learning that God is dependable? Are they learning that God will keep his promises? Are they learning what healthy family looks like by watching us?
There is no shame if we examine ourselves and find we could improve. Rather, it is an opportunity to become more yielded and dependent upon the Holy Spirit. He longs to impart the grace necessary for us to succeed as parents, if we will but turn to him. As you contemplate the routines and rituals of your household today, please remember to turn to the Lord and ask for divine strategies for your home and for the desire and power to remain steadfast in the honorable work he has given us of parenting this generation.