We’ve been talking about ways to reduce overwhelm and overload for us parents. If you missed my last blog about Reducing Information Overload for you and your children, check it out here.
The next stage in simplifying and making more space in your family life is to slow down the pace of life and schedule less. Read on for some tips for descheduling your children’s and your own lives.
But many parents say to me - how do we do this when we work? Juggling work with caring for our children and running a household is a squeeze no matter what you do. But there are ways to make the down-time much more relaxing so you feel like your life is less hectic – I’ll give you some of these strategies as well!
DE-SCHEDULING YOUR KIDS
One of the reasons that you may be feeling overloaded and stressed is that your family schedule is just too crammed. Are you endlessly driving your kids around from class to class, having to nag them to do their music practice every day and much more?
The risk of doing too many activities is that, not only does it stress you out, but your child can get over-tired and wired too as they aren’t getting enough down-time. Young children in particular need unstructured free playtime that they need to be imaginative, focused, unhurried and quiet.
BUT PLEASE NOTE: if kids do get more downtime it’s super-important that they don’t just spend this time on computer games or TV or sitting around eating junk food!
Read on for some tips for healthy descheduling:
1. Choose carefully and only do 2-3 extra-curricular activities per week.
Even pre-school children can get over-stimulated by more than 2-3 group classes or activities per week. All children are different, of course, and some need more outlets than others. But I’ve found my 4yo daughter can only manage two things per week: a swimming lesson and gymnastics class is enough!
2. Reduce the Driving Around
The other issue with all the scheduled activities is that it often involves a lot of driving around, which is a time-filling and sometimes stressful task in itself. Try to simplify your schedule so you are driving less. And, if you can, do more local things in walking- or cycling-distance from home or school.
3. Don’t expect a Child Prodigy!
It’s often our expectations of our children to be superstars that drive over-scheduling. It’s great to give your kids opportunities, but why not ‘stretch’ your goals out so they don’t have to achieve everything at once?
If you want your child to learn piano and they also love to do gymnastics, dance and football you don’t have to do them all at once! This term he/she could try dance and football to see if they like them. Later in the year you could switch to gymnastics and drop one of the others. And you could wait until next year to introduce the piano. Believe it or not, there’s plenty of time!
4. Make sure that More Down-time = More Quality & Family Time
If your kids are getting plenty of free-time and aren’t over-scheduled, it’s crucial that they spend their unstructured time on the “good stuff” = creative play, outdoors time, physical activity, doing stuff with Mum, Dad and family. If they just end up watching TV, playing video games and eating junk food on the couch then they are definitely worse off than being over-busy at classes! So ensure their free-time is well-spent and screen-free as much as possible.
I HAVE TO WORK AND PARENT, HOW CAN I MAKE SOME SPACE IN OUR FAMILY LIFE?
So let’s assume you need to continue your current work schedule, but it feels like life is flat out. What else can you do to make some space? Here are some ideas for making the time away from work a bit more relaxed:
1. Deschedule your parenting time
Schedule relaxed time at home or at the beach/park/in nature rather than booking too many catch-ups, shopping trips or commitments. When faced with a request to attend something ask yourself: Is this a nourishing, mindful activity for my kids and I? Will it add value to our day or just make us busy?
2. Do slow things when you’re at home
Meditate, play with your kids, potter in the garden. I find I can meditate or do yoga for 5 minutes during the day when my daughter is engrossed in playing – it really helps!
3. Find time-saving ways to free up your home time
There are ways to reduce housework e.g. get a cleaner to clean your house if you can afford it (best investment I ever made!). Order your groceries online to be delivered. Bulk-cook your meals for the week and put some meals in the freezer. There are lots of ways to free up a bit of time.
4. Cut down 1 hour per day on watching TV and/or browsing the web or Facebook
This will give you an hour of time to allocate to something more nourishing and mindful like playing music, playing with your kids, reading a book, walking, exercising, getting a massage etc.
The main thing is to look at your weekly schedule and identify activities that you could stop doing or outsource. Then decide what you would rather be doing with that time that are nourishing activities and schedule those instead!
Check out the Feed the Parent Facebook page for some more tips, ideas and support in making your family life more mindful and calm.