I was going to write about the transition to school, but it suddenly feels at my house like school is definately in full swing! It happens so quickly. Whether you have one child or several your household goes from the summer rhythm to a full schedule. On your Marks, Get Set, GO!! Suddenly you are juggling multiple schedules. One is in scouts, one is in soccer (or fill in the sport of choice at your house.) Add in clubs, school projects, spouses travelling for work, etc. etc. etc. The list is different in every family. But most households with kids are challenged by the schedules they keep.
Part of the value of yoga, is that it emphasizes the benefits of just BE-ing rather than Do-ing.
If you practice yoga yourself, you recall the delicious feeling at the end of class when you are fully relaxed, and your mind is resting, your body is resting, and you are fully present in your body, in your life, right then. We adults often need an hour of asana practice, or a bit of meditation to get to that place of inner quiet and rest. Some people only find this sense of ease on vacation (some not even then!) Most kids have us beat hands down in this department. They do not need an hour to get into the flow of life right now. They are living it. Yoga helps them find that sweet spot. But they can also find it on their own. IF….. they have a small space of time that is not filled in already with structure and expectation. The biggest thing they need is our support in getting a little down time.
This is not to say that structure and high expectations are not a valuable part of kids lives. But were you as busy as your kids are? Did you have something everyday after school? Did you have sensory input coming at you every hour of everyday? Kids today are can be hyped up on technology! It is fun, but it is also stimulating. 800 TV channels, Tweets, Facebook, Texting, Radio, Ipods, video clips on Youtube; all of these are great in moderation. Do your kids have some slow time and real live people time to balance all of that technology?
So how do we give kids all the enrichment that we want them to have, and at the same time honor the need of every person for a bit of calm and quiet? I believe that one of the most important tips is to first embrace the concept that time BE-ing is as valuable as time spent DO-ing.
(This would be an ideal time to ask yourself if this is really something that you consider in your own life, in the life of your family, and the schedules of your kids. Do you believe this statement? Do you apply it at all in your own family schedule?).
The irony is not lost on me that while I have been attempting to write this blog, initially, one of my daughters friends called on skype so we used the computer to see her long distance. Then on trying to complete the blog another day, while typing: my husband called me to help him move something, the door bell rang with a neighbor needing something, I had to turn down the TV in the next room set on an unbelievable blaring volume of the Disney Channel (with no one actually watching it), and the cat tipped over a glass of water. So, my bit of time to write about BE-ing and cultivating a less hectic pace, has been filled with things to do and interruptions that do not feel at all peaceful!
This is real life! How can we accomodate it and still find some peace for ourselves and our children???
Once we recognize that a bit of down time for our kids would help them feel better on the inside, then it is a matter of spotting all the opportunites for peace in our daily life. Small routines can make a very big difference. Here are some ideas that you might like to try.
For toddlers and preschoolers:
Make sure that they actually do get a nap. Your life and theirs will be dramatically more peaceful if they get the sleep they need. (this is actually true at all ages).
Create peaceful routines for your little ones to follow at nap and bedtime. This could be a song you sing, rocking them, snuggling them, reading a story, dimming the lights, some aromatherapy, saying your prayers or doing a peaceful visualization, a special blanket or toy that soothes them.
Use the adage, ‘ for happy kids, just add water’. If you are having a very challenging day, try letting them have a relaxing bath, less to get clean, and more to just let them enjoy the water. You need to be in the room with them, so bring your phone and call a friend. At the end of a half hour, you will both feel more relaxed and happier.
For young elementary school aged kids:
Set aside time for them just to have crayons and paper. Let them color. Anything. Any color. No rules, no external expectations. Let their imagination guide them.
Check for their age, what is the appropriate amount of sleep. Help them function well and in a balanced way.
Most of the truly awful days with kids can be attributed to answering the questions–
Is my child overly tired?
Is my child hungry?
Am I overly tired?
Am I overly hungry?
If at any given moment you have answered YES to 2 or more of these questions; watch out! Smile. You are not likely to have a peaceful day!
SWING! Do you remember how nice it feels to sit on a swing. I think it takes the place of rocking for babies. Let your child go out and sit on the swing. Or push them and sing your favorite song.
Be in nature. Find an hour to get outside. This can be a small local park or your own back yard. Looking at the sky helps us remember that our troubles are not so big.
For Tweens and Teens:
Encourage your older child to daydream and have her/his own thoughts. You can give her a notebook that she/he can use as a journal. Maybe they are more inclined to doodle. The idea is let them express their own ideas and feelings with out structure or expectation.
It bears repeating: Be in nature. A good friend of mine who had teens before me told me that she felt that her son who she knew had dissappeared as he entered the teen years. She and her son reconnected during a trip camping. There is something beneficial to the soul just being outside together. It does not need to be a whole weekend, just spend an hour or two hiking or bring a picnic. Do what you can do.
Help your child take a look at their commitments. If they want to be in 4 activites, is that realistic? It depends upon the schedule and the teen. Have a talk with them about what is most important to them. How will they manage their time? Offer to take the blame if they want to bow out of some activity that is not as important to them now, but they don’t know how to say no.
Make a boundary for your children regarding how many activities are reasonable. Hold the line that _________ number of activities are the max.
Look at your family schedule as a whole. Include parents work schedules, school activites, sports, social engagements. Is there a way to shift some things or cancel some things so that it is more efficient, and sane. Try not to be a victim of your calendar! Be proactive when choosing what you and your children will participate in. Know that by bowing out of card club during baseball season for example, that might allow everyone in your family to be home together on a certain night. What would that be worth for you as a family?
Create a special family tradition that everyone enjoys together. This could be going for donuts on Saturday morning. Or reading the paper on the porch. Or Friday night movie night as a family. Or game night, checkers tournament, etc. Maybe it is going out for dinner with special friends. Or making pizza or chili together. It can be anything that your family enjoys together. If you are hoping to use this as a way of creating connection and peace within your family, then choose something that is not too difficult to do. Unless you are a gourmet chef, planning a 5 course meal every Sunday might add stress rather than reduce it. Choose what you and your kids and partner enjoy and find easy to do together.
Look for small bits of time that you can spend just BE-ing with your child. Five minutes well spent will change their day, and yours. Maybe it is just offering them a glass of milk and a snack after school and waiting to hear about their day. Maybe it is sitting with them when they find something really amusing on youtube. Maybe after they get out of the bath, you can give them a foot rub or back rub. Maybe they ask you every day to throw the ball with them, and you never have time. How would you both feel if you spent 15 minutes doing something fun together, something that was not pre-scheduled and graded or competitive.
One final suggestion. Perhaps the most important.
Imagine that your child of whatever age, is walking by; and you just take a moment to pat them on the head, or give them a hug, or even just look at them, really see them, and smile.
Imagine that now………….
I feel more peaceful. Do you?
Please feel free to add your own ideas of how to encourage downtime at your house, and ways to cultivate peace and connection with our children and our families. The best Yoga does not stay in class, it changes the way we interact with the world and within ourselves. And if we are lucky, it helps us be more mindful and loving with those we care about the most. Please take a crack at it, and remember that a small change can often make a big difference.