Today we are submerged in the rapidly changing world, technology has made people disconnected from others and even more disconnected with themselves.
In a bid to get kids more connected with themselves, their surroundings and spirituality South African Andrew Newman created a collection of bedtime stories called The Conscious Bedtime Stories.
He says he noticed that the adults he helps in his therapy practice were all working to unravel these early beliefs and retrain their brain towards a more positive outlook.
This motivated him to look for a way to help kids while they are creating their beliefs and help adults to return to their beautiful inner essence with gentle reminders. Snuggling together with Conscious Stories facilitates this for both adult and child, he says.
More for me than for them
Intrigued, I chose 'The Prayer Who Searched For God' from the collection of five locally available books from the series. I read it to my 8-month-old son and 3-year-old niece, but towards the end, I felt like it was more for me than it was for them.
Andrew describes the book as an " imaginative, heartfelt story for ages 4 to 8 follows the adventures of one special prayer as she travels on a single breath to the edge of the universe to find God."
As I paged through the little hardcover it stood out to me how people place spirituality in church founders and pastors. Part of this is evident in the bogus pastors making South African news headlines. A part of it probably one of the reasons I am hot and cold on the topic of attending church.
It got me to question this aspect of my spirituality, which I would have otherwise not bothered with.
It made me wonder how I would foster a conversation about God to my kids.
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Various conscious concepts
The books are diverse though, and they tackle different conscious concepts to "help parents create a sense of familial belonging and conscious values by promoting healthy, consistent connection every evening".
Topics addressed include helping children (and adults) to appreciate their bodies, connect with animals, find silence within themselves and to break free from harmful thoughts.
Parent24 had a chat with Andrew to find out why using conscious stories to connect with your children was so important to him.
What compelled you to write therapeutic stories for children?
I have always loved stories, storytime and storytelling. I find it engages my inner and outer world and allows me to have great adventures without leaving my couch! In 2010 I started asking illustrators to put pictures to my poems.
When I shared the books with people they often cried and said thank you. "I wish I had known this when I was younger" or "This will really help my kids."
My studies in healing and developmental psychology taught me that the first 7 years of our life are when we form our beliefs about our self and the world. We often begin to see the world as negative or believe we aren't good enough or truly welcome to be ourselves.
Then we have to develop protective behaviours that usually restrict and limit our full potential.
How do these stories affect the children?
When I do school visit I always start with the Boy Who Searched For Silence. In this story the character, a young boy, goes searching for silence because he struggles with the noises of everyday life.
He looks in many places and cannot find it. Then in a moment of surrender he falls inwards and lands right into silence. The story shows children that silence is a place inside them and they can go there whenever and wherever they want.
I start with this story because it connects kids to calmness and peacefulness. They really like and need this, and as adults we need to model this to them rather than tell them to be quiet. They need this calm to help prepare for or to integrate their day just as we do as adults.
I am often hearing from moms and dads that their storytime ritual has changed because of my books. Parents feel more connected to their kids and their anxiety about being a ‘good enough parent’ settles.
They are delighted and surprised to learn more about their kids thinking and feeling. Children open up and share so much at bedtime and when families do the breathing practices at the start of the books and then kids feel safe to open.
I heard from a mom recently that her 5 year old boy wants her to read The Hug Who Got Stuck every night so he can get free from sticky thoughts before bed. When she was doing the activity page at the back of the book, she asked him if he had any sticky thoughts and he shared that he was scared because he often has the same nightmare. She had no idea about this, and now each night before bed she can comfort him and assure him he is safe.
Also read: South African stories that teach kids about race in a positive way
What is the theory behind the therapeutic benefits?
When we create meaningful conscious connection, through paired breathing, story and the activity pages we are nurturing the part of us that needs togetherness.
Togetherness is the antidote for aloneness. Touch, warmth and safety settle us whether we are young or old. While our little ones are sleeping, their brain is still at work integrating and making sense of their day.
If you have ever been to sleep on an argument you’ll know that it festers all night long and is still uncomfortable in the morning. Similarly, when we create comfort as the last experience of the day, then we wake up into comfort.
Then we can access confidence, self esteem and positive thinking because our executive brain state is online rather than our survival brain state.
What are the key benefits of these stories?
Each story has a core lesson that prepares the young reader for life. Often for an experience they haven’t yet had.
This gives families and teachers a common language. “Aaw do you have a stuck hug? Shall we get free of it like in the story?” or “Lets fall inwards into silence for a minute so we can feel peaceful.”
Core Lessons on the stories
How Diablo Became Spirit
The Prayer Who Searched for God
The Boy Who Searched for Silence
The Elephant Who Tried to Tiptoe
The Hug Who Got Stuck
About Conscious Stories
Conscious Bedtime Stories are a collection of stories with wise and lovable characters who teach core life values to your children. Each of the Conscious Bedtime Story Club books invites its readers to engage in mindfulness practices, beginning with Snuggle Breathing, which helps parents and children alike to share an experience of relaxation, presence and connection to each other and to the story.
Each story ends with reflective activities and exercises to help children assimilate the lessons the stories have presented.
Because the last 20 minutes of each day are precious, these books use this important time to help children and parents grow consciously together in mind, body and spirit.
Visit the Counscious Bedtime Stories website for more information.
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