Was I alone in thinking that once my kids started elementary school I would have more time? Boy, was I wrong. I went from volunteering regularly in the co-op preschool to volunteering as the Brownie leader, the library volunteer coordinator, the book fair coordinator, and the classroom representative. This is in addition to seeing patients part-time in my own psychology practice, and managing the weekly speech and occupational therapy appointments for my kids. Oh, and don’t forget horseback riding, piano, dance class, play dates and sleepovers! Not to mention that my husband and I rarely have time to have a conversation.
Don’t get me wrong. I’m not complaining – really I’m not. First, I have to own that I signed up for this. Literally – I couldn’t stand the fact that no one else was volunteering to be the classroom rep, so I put my name in the mix. Same with the other jobs. I do enjoy spending time at the kids’ school, interacting with their teachers and friends, and feeling like I’m contributing something. On the other hand, I worry that I’m not only overscheduling myself, but I am overscheduling the kids. Granted, they love all of their activities. But have we lost sight of plain old-fashioned fun? I remember as a kid, I spent every afternoon playing outside, riding bikes, playing four-square and hopscotch, tasting honeysuckle, and visiting with neighbors. Homework wasn’t the main event.
I don’t remember my parents having to schedule play dates, because I would see my friends every day after school. I can still hear my Mom calling out just before dusk in her thick Brazilian accent, “Dinnertime, come inside!”
Now we also have technology to contend with. Kids are spending more and more time playing video games, watching television, emailing, and texting, and less time getting fresh air and enjoying Mother Nature. For our sensory kiddos, this sensory overload often results in overstimulation, meltdowns, and difficulty completing tasks. It is twice as hard for these children to get back to baseline after watching a loud movie, spending 30 minutes on the internet, or texting with a friend.
This is why it is increasingly important to combat cyber life and overscheduling with calming activities in nature that help you connect with your kids. Take time to go for a family hike, go on a nature scavenger hunt, spend time at the dog park, or go to an apple orchard. Or just play outside in your own backyard – throw a ball or frisbee, swing on the swings, draw with sidewalk chalk, jump on the trampoline, or ride a bike. These gross-motor activities will also help calm and prepare your child for homework time, dinnertime, and bedtime.
The Slow Family Living Movement, a concept developed by Carrie Contey, Ph.D. and Bernadette Noll, is a testimony to this very sentiment. Dr. Contey, a prenatal/perinatal psychologist and nationally recognized parent coach, and Ms. Noll, a writer and mother of four, describe their collaboration:
“It is our desire to help families and individuals find ways to slow things down, not with a recipe or a prescription, but rather by questioning how things are going, and finding ways that work for them. It is our biggest intention to help families find ways to slow things down, connect and enjoy life together.”
Check it out at:
Enjoy the great outdoors!