I don’t know where I heard of this book, but let’s just say… it’s amazing. Not only should adults sleep with bread, I think we should teach our children to as well.
After World War II there were many kids traumatized by starvation, deprivation, and fear of lack. This had been their experience for years and the new situation didn’t immediately make those locked up emotions go away. Even though they were now in locations where food was abundant, they continued to wake up worried they’d be hungry.
This caused anxiety at bedtime.
Then, someone came up with an ingenious idea… to give kids bread to sleep with.
That way, they knew there would be food in the morning. They could go to sleep calmly knowing their needs were met today and, because they were holding the bread tight, wake up tomorrow knowing they’d be met again.
Why Your Kids Should Be “Sleeping With Bread”
This was such a profound way for these children to cope. By being grateful and safe as they slept as a way to heal. I’m not sure how I came upon this book, Sleeping With Bread, but I’m so glad I did. It focuses on a type of prayer called the Examen common in the Catholic faith, and I’ve found it very helpful.
The book essentially focuses on the prayer of Examen and how, at the end of each day, you should ask yourself two questions.
- What was I most grateful for today?
- What was I least grateful for today?
It helps them get in touch with their emotions
Hahahaha, you are thinking. My kids are very well in touch with their emotions. They are so in touch they are emotional all day every day. This is probably the case with small children. And yet, are they in touch enough with their emotions they can discuss events in light of their emotions?
“The thing I’m most grateful for is getting to play with my friends.” To this you can ask follow up questions. “Why did that make you happy?” and “What did you like about it?” Or perhaps your child will say something like, “I did not like when I got in trouble for biting.” This too will lead to a discussion.
By asking these questions and allowing children to share, you can dig deeper with your kids and help them understand their emotions.
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It fosters gratitude
We all want to raise kids who are appreciative and grateful, not entitled. There are a myriad of ways to make this happen, but I believe the Examen prayer is one way. One way that has multiple benefits. By asking our children to isolate things they are grateful for we are encouraging thankfulness.
My younger kids have a harder time thinking of things they’re grateful for on occasion, but as we try to draw these answers out they learn to dig deeper and think about their days, not just float through them.
It’s a great way to connect
As I mentioned above, this is a great way to connect with your child. We’ve done it multiple times at dinner, but I know this won’t elicit deep responses from the kids since we’re all together. However, bedtime is also a great time to do the Examen prayer together.
If they are learning how to answer these questions, you can go first. It’s also a good chance to show your children how “human” you are. Share what made you least grateful, most upset, where you’ve messed up. This can be a huge connection maker between you and your child.
It helps teach self-awareness
Self-awareness is a huge thing. When I did my masters and took leadership classes, I did approximately 4,345,673 personality assessments. I loved them. An important point of these tests was to learn the type of person I am. This is key for our children. I’ve written before on how to help train your child in their extrovert or introvert tendencies, but this goes above that.
By teaching children to evaluate their days, they are learning who they are and what they like. The authors of Sleeping With Bread said they’ve used the Examen prayer to make big decisions in their life and even to find their life’s purpose. By identifying what they love and don’t love, day in and day out, they become more in touch with themselves.
This is a gift we can give our children!
Just like the children post World War II who slept with bread to prevent anxiety at night… by being grateful and focusing our hearts in prayer to God before we go to sleep, we’re in essence going to bed knowing we were taken care of today.
And, hopefully, tomorrow that will continue.
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