The Art of Slow Parenting: how to make time for what really matters with your children
Our days seem to be getting more and more hectic. There’s the 9-5 slog, rushing to and from work, drop-offs and pick-ups at daycare and school, running to appointments, weekends are for relaxing, or are they actually for rushing to children’s sports, house and yard maintenance? Even being more connected to devices means we might be losing connections with each other. We always seem to be busy, finishing one task or appointment so we can cross it off the endless list.
If we reflect on our own childhoods, do our children’s developing years look like ours? Maybe not. We likely (and hopefully) have memories of aimless play, exploration and time to dream.
Even going on family walks may come with encouragements of ‘c’mon Freddy, let’s go!’ or ‘keep walking’, but why? Challenge yourself not to give your children any instructions for the next minute the next time you’re out for a walk. Was 60 seconds hard to get through? The funny thing is, on walks, you’re probably not even in a rush.
Your children may constantly feeling hurried, rushed, pushed to keep moving. This can create feelings of anxiety, stress and resentment.
There’s a movement brewing the last few years, called Slow Parenting. Have you heard of it, or pondered it yourself?
According to a 2015 article in the Boston Globe, slow parenting ‘cherishes quality over quantity, being in the moment, and making meaningful connections with your family.’
In the article, Carrie Contey, a prenatal and perinatal psychologist, says young children need a balance of activity and down time.
“In early development, children are still wiring. They need to have moments of doing and moments of being for integration to happen,” says Contey. “If they don’t take space for integration that leads to meltdowns and overtiredness.”
Need some ideas on how you can slow down your parenting, and in a way, time?
- Picnics! Children love picnics. Instead of family dinner at the table, why not take it outside? Head to the beach, go out to your backyard, or heck, lay a blanket in the living room. Children will love the special change in a daily event, and it’s a time for everyone to connect in a different way
- Drink in your child/children. In the article, clinical psychologist John Duffy suggests that “parents just take time to watch their children, whether they are playing, doing homework, or eating a snack. Take a moment to drink them in. Remember and remind yourself how remarkable your children are. That pause alone, even if momentary, can drive a shift in the pace.”
- Go for a walk with no intentions – no length of time or distance goals, just walk. Let your child slow down to observe something, or stop and encourage them to look at something. Get your child to point out everything they see at one point during the walk
- Give children space to play independently. Unstructured play is so good for little ones—helping them build creativity, imagination, problem solving, and resilience
- Stop glorifying being busy. Find ways as a family you can take back that time you give to everything else; don’t sign up for so many extra-curriculars you spend your only time as a family in the car ferrying to events, don’t agree to every birthday party or invite, decide as a family what’s important on the calendar that month and what isn’t
- Throw a ball around, plant some seeds together, play a game (not on a screen) together – the singular focus of activities like these, and the conversations that will come up, will be memory-making
- Read together. At Little Scholars we embrace the Abecedarian Approach Australia, which brings conversation in to time together between child and adult when reading books. Research proves there’s a multitude of benefits for children who are read to daily
- Just cuddle together. The effect of physical affection in childhood is lifelong, with health and well-being benefits proven in science. Several studies have related the happiness of adults to how affectionate their parents were with them when they were babies. This was a result of oxytocin, according to researchers, the natural chemical released when you feel love and affection, being produced more in children with affectionate parents
- If you are the parent of more than one child, make time to do something special one-on-one with each child. They’ll appreciate being the sole focus of Mum or Dad for a little while, and you’ll appreciate getting to bond.
Next time you’re about to hurry your child, take a moment to think about why, and how you can approach it differently. If it’s about being late for something say bed time, will an extra 15 minutes affect them adversely once and a while? What about what they stand to gain from the extra time? If it’s getting to school and work on time, reflect on how you can alter your routine to allow for a bit of flexibility. You never know what small moments will make up lifetime memories for your child.