Turns out, there is a reason your kids always want to have important conversations at bedtime
"Mummy, if your leg gets chopped off, can you glue it back on?"
And then: "If you hit your head and blood comes out – is head blood very, very dangerous?"
Last night, my little boy was all chat at bedtime – as he tends to be.
In fairness, that day had taken us on an adventure where he ended up climbing so high up into a tree that I panicked for a moment, and let's just say he made it back down safely, but not without me asking some tall stranger at the park if he could help me yank my child down from a tree.
So I was assuming that all the medical emergency questions originated from this whole ordeal.
However, these drawn-out bedtime chats were by no means unusual. My children tend to be at their most talkative (and thirsty!) the minute we are cuddled up on the bed, ready to read bedtime stories.
For a long time, I just suspected these chats were some sort of stalling tactic to avoid going to sleep. But as it turns out, bedtime, to children, is the perfect time for them to open up and chat about their day or something that is on their minds.
Child sleep and behaviour consultant Mylee Zschech recently chatted to Romper about this phenomenon:
"The bedtime routine brings a feeling of intimacy, of closeness with your parents, which can make a child feel more inclined to open up," Zschech said. "The other aspect is that while children are doing something else, for example, getting on their PJs or having a bath, they might feel more comfortable to open up because they aren't feeling like eyes are directly on them, which lessens the likelihood of feeling self-consciousness."
Speaking to Essentialkids.com.au, Australian children's wellbeing expert Dr Maxine Therese echoed this, saying it's natural for children to take a while to process their thoughts and feelings, and that it's important for parents to listen to children's concerns.
"At the end of the day when we are winding down and transitioning into sleep we unconsciously review the events of the day," Therese explains. "Children need space to process anything that has come up for them during the day. The idea of going to sleep without a worry is comforting for everyone."
What parents need to do to facilitate this talk time, she says, is to simply try to build this extra time into the bedtime routine so children feel like they can open up.
"Show interest, be available knowing that this is an important time of the day," she advises. "We need to make the space so that children's concerns can surface so that they feel safe to express and not rushed or ignored."
Even those children who seem to be just stalling or chatting about nothin, in particular are telling us something important, says Dr Therese.
"Any child that stalls bedtime generally feels that they have not had enough time either to themselves or with the family," she says. "If the child feels that they haven't connected they may stall their bedtime. Even a child not going to bed is communicating that they need more connection. If we can hold the space [for our children], it means it gets attended to in the present moment and doesn't become a residual emotional pattern."
It's about resetting the way we attend to our children's needs, Therese explains. And it requires that we pause and attend in the present moment.
"Shutting down any open communication means we are missing an opportunity to connect with our children."