An interview and book giveaway in partnership with Stef Tousignant
The Children’s Book Review
Sleep! It’s often underrated until you become the parent of a baby or kiddo who struggles with it. We don’t often think of sleep as something that needs to be taught; however, learning self-soothing and relaxation techniques to help the body get ready for sleep can be invaluable for young people as a skill to carry through life.
In this chat, gratitude advocate and parenting expert Stef Tousignant shares how her own experiences led her to create The Middle of the Night Book, a lovely introduction to meditation for young readers and great for bedtime reading routines.
Be sure to checkout the BOOK GIVEAWAY shared at the end of this interview for your chance to win a signed copy of The Middle of the Night Book and an Imperfect Parent Bonus!
Can you tell us about the inspiration for The Middle of the Night Book? What led you to write a meditation bedtime book for kids?
Stef Tousignant: I wrote the book because I was the hardest on myself at night. As a professional nanny, I thought I would know what to do, but I didn’t. Night time was outside my wheelhouse. I relied on tools during the day like baby sign language and bedtime routines, but when it came to my baby or toddler screaming in the middle of the night, I felt at a loss. I would do my best, but I was so tired or dysregulated that I always did something “wrong.” Even once I got my child to sleep, the Mom Guilt would not let up, keeping me awake even longer.
I wanted to offer parents a tool that lived on their nightstand that they could rely on when they were woken up suddenly, and they either zombie-walked into their child’s room or were so aggravated because they had finally just fallen to sleep that they went in hyped up and angry. Having a book you can rely on when you are not at your best is critical to feeling like you can do it.
It took a few years, but I discovered the most straightforward way I could fall asleep was with a body scan, and I wondered if that would work for kids, too – I tried it with my kids and others – and it did! In fact, it worked to calm both the kids and their parents.
The dreamy illustrations are one of our favorite features of the book. Can you tell us how they were developed and what it was like working with the illustrator to create that bedtime feel?
I wanted a book that you could easily open in the middle of the night and not worry about feeling overstimulating to your child or your senses. The pages with only the moon were placed as pauses to bring a certain cadence to the reading and hopefully allow for a breath or two as you continued. I love it when children’s books take on more of an artistic point of view instead of a cartoony or saccharine feel.
Kids are ready for diverse artistic styles much earlier than we give them credit for. I also asked the illustration team Go Go Luna to include children of many ages because I wanted to make sure that the book could grow with the child and that it displayed a variety of races and adult gender roles. It wasn’t until I met the team at Go Go Luna did the book come entirely to life inside my head; the words are essential, but the illustrations were what would make the book sing (or, in this case, soothe).
The book appears as part of your “Parenting with Gratitude” website – can you tell us a little bit more about this method and how it relates to the book?
I want to live in a world where children are taken care of by adults who take care of themselves. I believe that if you are worried about being a good parent in the middle of the night, you are probably already pretty awesome, and you just have to give yourself a little more credit. To do that, you can use a daily gratitude practice to notice all the good already in your life.
Parenting with gratitude has redirected my mindset away from Mom Guilt and towards a more positive outlook on parenting – and life. And I hope that when a parent lays back down after a nighttime wakeup, they feel proud of themselves and are grateful that they offered their best to their child, whatever that might have been.
Do you use the book yourself?
I use a body scan meditation to fall asleep almost every night. My kids are 10 and 14 now, so I do not get to read the book aloud too often! I do get reviews like this one all the time and they make me so happy:
Why do you feel meditation and body awareness are essential for young readers?
Teaching a child body awareness teaches them to notice their physical sleep cues independently, which will help them navigate the three stages of sleep: self-regulation, self-settling, and self-soothing; with the ultimate goal of no longer needing your help to bring there yourself.
Meditation in itself is a form of body awareness. We learn to take the focus off the busyness of our minds and bring it to the grounded feelings in our body and breath. A body scan is the simplest form of meditation that I also felt was developmentally appropriate for young children and, therefore, would provide the necessary positive feedback for success.
How would you recommend that parents and educators use the book?
Young children thrive on the predictability of a routine. So I encourage parents to use this book as their “anchor book” to the bedtime routine – that’s the last book of the night. When they wake up in the middle of the night, try to maintain as much of that bedtime routine as possible because it will provide the necessary cues for sleep. Read the book and make sure it’s a time of connection. You can touch each part as you bring your attention to it – two soft arms – which will release oxytocin or what some scientists call the love hormone. This connection will help your child to feel safe enough to give sleep another try.
Sure, you may have to do the book two or three times before they settle, but these are learned skills – and over time, you should be able to do a body scan meditation on its own or ask them to before you are called in. I offer a middle-of-the-night checklist on my website that you can post by their bedside, which offers pictures of what to do when they wake up – before calling you.
What is your favorite bedtime routine?
I love to read before bed. I find that I fall asleep faster and have more interesting dreams if that’s the last thing I do before shutting off the light. And then I do a bodyscan and I’m out!
Have any favorite children’s authors inspired your writing and storytelling style?
I am a huge fan of Margaret Wise Brown, author of Runaway Bunny and Goodnight Moon. I think that her style of writing and her conviction to make books that were developmentally appropriate for very young children (without being dismissive) are what allowed future authors like myself to push the envelope and try things like wordless pages, purposeful pauses, and quirky topics. She was always true to a child’s point of view and a very empathetic writer, and I appreciate that.
Will you be writing any meditation books for older children in the future?
I have a series of books that are part of my Parenting with Gratitude children’s series. The next one in the works is The Gratitude Book which is for 3- to 8-year-olds. It talks about the very different ways we can experience gratitude and how it can shift our mindset/worldview to see the good all around us. And I have another book in the works that focuses on feeling big emotions and how to let them run their course without getting swept away with them.
What other stories would you recommend to parents who want to introduce their children to meditation and mindfulness techniques?
For preschool-aged children, I love Mop Rides the Waves of Life by Jaimal Yogis (it’s a series, actually). The books offer relatable and fun stories that don’t sugarcoat a child’s real-world experiences with negative emotions.
About the Book
Written by Stef Tousignant
Illustrated by Go Go Luna
Ages 0+ | 24 Pages
Publisher: Parent Differently Books | ISBN-13: 9780578744278
Publisher’s Book Summary: Can a book really put your baby or toddler back to sleep? YES!
This bedtime book teaches your child to notice their body’s sleepiness using a body scan meditation. Read it together before bed, as well as when they wake up in the middle of the night. The moon is surprised to find your child awake and sends down a moonbeam to guide them back to dreamland. They are asked to rest each part of their body, teaching them a basic body scan meditation. The soothing pictures and dark tones of the book’s illustrations provide a great backdrop as they lull your child back to sleep.
**2021 BOOK OF THE YEAR – CREATIVE CHILD MAGAZINE – Bedtime Board Book Category **
Buy the Book
Book GiveawayThe Middle of the Night Book Giveaway
About the Author
Stef Tousignant is a gratitude advocate and parenting expert. She is the author of the bedtime book “The Middle of the Night Book” and a professional nanny of 20+ years. Caring for hundreds of children made her realize she was not alone with her internal demands to be a ‘good’ parent by putting her happiness on hold so that her kids could live full and rich lives.
Burned-out parents everywhere rely on her mindfulness tools and honest blog posts found at ParentDifferently.com. It’s her hope to normalize imperfect parenting by sharing her journey and the gifts a committed gratitude practice can bring to modern family life.
You’ll often find her driving home in her 1974 VW Bug to her two loud sons and her two even louder cats (and her much quieter high school sweetheart) – all waiting to ask her “What’s for dinner?” in their cozy house amongst the California Redwoods.
For more information, visit https://parentingwithgratitude.com/.
This interview—Stef Tousignant Discusses The Middle of the Night Book—was conducted between Christopher Willard, Daniel Rechtschaffen, and Dr. Jen Harrison. For similar books and articles, follow along with our content tagged with Gratitude, Meditation Books, Mindfulness, and Sleep.
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