Pajama Program is committed to defending every child’s right to a good night all year-round, which is why it’s important to know the challenges that every season presents for children to get a good night’s sleep, especially for those in vulnerable living conditions.
or instance, spring brings more allergens, like tree and bee pollen, that can affect moods and keep kids up with itchy eyes and noses. Sunny summer days with no school means longer days and later bedtimes; and, for those living in hot areas without air conditioning, trying to sleep comfortably may feel like a nightmare. Fall is when school’s back in, which is a whole different story when it comes to transitioning back into a bedtime routine.
And then there’s winter: here at Pajama Program, we are already preparing for the coldest time of the year, because historically that is when caregivers have called on us the most to help keep kids warm at night with new pajamas and storybooks.
Starting October 1st, temperatures start to drop in many places across the country. Children without a home or in a transient situation feel the coming winter earlier: many children across the country go to bed in places without steady heat throughout the night.
As we enter the later months, days become shorter and darker. Even the colors around us become muted and grey. Both adults and children may feel the effects of seasonal affective disorder, or SAD, a form of depression that occurs during a specific time of year. Transitioning into fall and winter is hard for the children we serve, not only because of the weather but also because of how tensions rise throughout the holiday seasons.
People often associate the holidays with comfort and warmth: spending time with family, enjoying special meals, and sitting by a fire with wool socks. From day one since she founded Pajama Program, Genevieve Piturro has worked to inform people of how important it is to provide that warmth and comfort for vulnerable children by giving them new cozy pajamas. “As much as you love putting on your flannel and robe, we need to keep them warm and rev up what we can do for them,” she encouraged. Piturro says she has received countless calls and emails over the years from people saying that getting new pajamas was part of their family tradition growing up, and that they are happy to pass that on. “It’s all about sharing the warmth and comfort. Nobody has a family tradition where they always give their kids bathing suits,” she said.
This season of giving can put pressure on families and caregivers at shelters who cannot afford gifts for their children. One great thing about Pajama Program’s work is that giving a new pair of pajamas and a storybook serves as both a practical way for people to help as well as a magical gift of unconditional love. Moreover, it is important that these pajamas and books are not hand-me-downs but brand new gifts specifically for these young people.
While volunteering one day, Piturro noticed how one child received a new book, but the one standing next to her did not: she watched as the boy’s face fell when he opened his book and saw another child’s name written in the cover. Children growing up between foster homes often lose their possessions; it’s invaluable for these children to have their own personal belongings. When a child sees Spiderman or Dora on their new pajamas, they are overcome with excitement: to them, these characters are their heroes and friends. “It’s all related to the heart and to the touch,” Piturro explained. To a child, even the color or texture of the fabric of their new pajamas can bring emotional attachment, uplifting their spirits. When they shed their clothes from the day at night, they leave behind the stress of that day.
Wait, it’s not over.
Because of the holidays at the end of the year, people often think winter starts after Thanksgiving; however, the winter solstice isn’t until December 21st, meaning winter does not actually start until the holiday season is almost over. The months of January through March are the dead of winter. Piturro explains how almost nobody volunteers after January 1st. In these early months, people have little-to-no time off of work and are back in school. Having made their tax-deductible donation, most are no longer thinking about giving back. Meanwhile, there are new kids entering shelters every day. Pajama Program recognizes this need and continues with programming efforts, such as Open Your Heart around Valentine’s Day.
As advocates, we are responsible for raising awareness and educating caregivers about what makes a good night for children, every time of the year. Now as the days grow shorter and the nights get longer, we must step up to continue closing the 24-Hour Good Day Loop of positivity that help every child feel comfortable and secure, valued and validated as a human being. This is about much more than just books and pajamas; this is about children feeling loved and cared for at a time when they might feel the most forgotten.