Introducing ‘The Lovely Stuff’
During these times of heightened anxiety, our children might doing their best not to notice all that is happening, but they are pretty smart. It’s likely they have heard and are using the words ‘Corona Virus’, that they understand that they can’t go to school because there is some form of danger ‘out there’ and that they can see or sense that their grown-ups are concerned. It is inevitable that they are processing this in one way or another. They may not have the vocabulary or emotional maturity to discuss it (I’m not even sure us grown-ups do!) so I wanted to share a bedtime ritual that we have found extremely positive.
For us it emerged some time ago when my son was afraid of the dark, but it’s psychology is sound (and supported by several psychologists around the world now that it is published as part of our picture book ‘Sam’s Shadow Braves the Night’) and it actively encourages that all important ‘attitude of gratitude’ as well as the feelings of safety and security that make for solidly grounded human beings. So, here it is, step-by-step:
The Lovely Stuff
Note: Feel free to adapt and adjust to suit yourselves, this is just how we do it…
1. I make a pot – I do this by cupping my hands together but it really could be anything: real or imagined.
My little boy lists his Lovely Stuff – basically everything he is grateful for that day and puts in each thing (an imaginary version at least) as he says it. We generally include stuff we’ve done, something kind someone did, people we’ve seen, any great food or treats, perhaps any good news we have heard (like someone who was ill is feeling better) and maybe also the odd thing we are looking forward to.
2. We make a big show of squashing all the good things from the pot into ‘the minimiser’ – this is a totally imaginary machine that squishes all the Lovely Stuff into one neat little imaginary pellet!
3. Now we remove any Bad Stuff – I unscrew it from his head. Sometimes we laugh at things that have happened or review anything that has been especially difficult but I don’t dwell on this too much. Some people prefer to start with this or miss it out all together. I’m an advocate for talking about things that are making kids wobble so I like to encourage a chat, but it’s really up to you. If anything does come up, I keep it light and pick up anything serious again in the morning (bedtime isn’t the moment for huge emotional subjects). I just say ‘thank you’ let’s turn this into positivity and let it be used for good wherever needed.’ Then we squash it and blow it away like dust.
4. Finally, once the minimiser has done its job, we take out the imaginary Lovely Stuff pellet and put it right into the middle of his forehead. We often giggle as i screw it in or I make him wait ages because the minimiser has so much to deal with when really all I’m doing is stealing extra cuddles. But the important thing is that once the Lovely Stuff is in, it works like a powerful white light. The child can use it to protect themselves like a shield or a dome/tent or can zap it out at any ‘bad guys’ they may imagine are approaching. It’s up to them. And while they are using it like that, we are secretly encouraging them to use it like this…
If my little boy tells me he is imagining scary or bad things, I remind him to focus on the Lovely Stuff: go back over the giggles, the nice thing a friend did, the adventures he is looking forward to. Without them even realising it, as they do this their brain is occupied with positivity, distracted from the imagination that creates the negative tangents. Nine times out of ten my little guy has fallen asleep before I even do the next check.
As Shadow says in ‘Sam’s Shadow Braves the Night’:
At first this concept takes a little explaining and may seem like another job to add to the endless and daunting mountain that is bedtime. But, honestly, it ends our days so happily. It will come as no surprise that I am a huge fan of the bedtime story, so now our routine goes: teeth, story, Lovely Stuff, lights out. I don’t think ‘Lovely Stuff’ adds more than 2-3 minutes to the whole routine, now that it’s so established, but it really is worth the investment.
If you have any questions please feel free to ask using the email link below. Otherwise, I really hope you’ll give this a try and enjoy the conversations and giggles and newfound bravery at night that result from it.