Comfort in the Darkness: Helping children draw close to God through biblical stories of night-time and sleep
Church Times Bookshop £7.20
THIS little book is a collection of evening activities for parents to do with their children, especially small children who find it hard to settle at night. Each section has a Bible story, retold in Rachel Turner’s engaging style from a first-person perspective, followed by a “Key Truth”, discussion ideas and a prayer, and a “Parenting for faith” tool: some guidance for parents, which, in many instances, is an underlining of the key truth.
This is such a good idea, but I did struggle with this book at times. A long time ago, I was a science teacher, and I have an ongoing fascination with psychology, and with the emerging theory about how our brains work; so I would have liked to see a chapter explaining why we jump when things go bump in the night. It’s our flight or fight response, adrenalin, still there from when night time was the most dangerous time for our primitive forebears. That was when you were most likely to be something else’s supper; so to jump when things go bump is a basic response.
One of the important forms of behaviour that small children need to learn is how to settle at night, although instinct tells them that they would be safer with a larger carer. Such a chapter would reassure parents that children don’t want to go to bed for basic reasons, and that we need to work with that knowledge — hence night lights, stories, warm baths, the whole routine.
Acknowledging the primitive in us helps us get behind what can be difficult and stressful behaviour, and gives insight as to how to work with it rather than against it.
I lent the book to a colleague with a three-year-old, who loved the stories, but found that they needed to be presented in a more small-child-friendly way; in the book we have text, but children like colour and pictures — maybe an online addition to make the story more inclusive for the age-group that we are talking about? And she said that the discussion was pitched above his head: just some “I wonder how s/he felt?” type interactions are about all her son can do.
This book comes from the New Wine tradition, and many families will enjoy using it. I would flag a need for more open discussions with children, enabling their own faith to form, not just a parroting of their parents’; but a book that encourages children to read and pray with their children at bedtime is to be applauded.
The Revd Ronni Lamont is Faith and Nurture Adviser for the diocese of Canterbury.