As May rolls in, children are getting excited for the few weeks of school to be over and the fun of summer to begin. Parents, however, may very well be thinking differently as they work to put schedules into place, provide for the extra daycare that might be needed, choose the activities that their children will be involved in, and wonder if they can handle it all.
Perhaps this is a good time to think about balance in your life and in the lives of your family. Does it seem that when you are with your children or you have some down time yourself, you are merely running from one activity to another? Have you found yourselves resorting to meals through the “to go” windows while you down the food in the car on the way to the next appointment or activity? When you finally do have the opportunity to sit down, is it only after you have scurried through getting to activities, doing homework with the children, getting the baths done and children in bed long past the desired bedtime? Do you find yourself sinking into the couch too tired to think about anything?
It seems that more and more children are being scheduled for “enriching activities” that fill their down time. This means that family meals, time together, down time for children to just play, and time with your children for casual but important interaction are often being sacrificed. This goes deep into many issues. Your child may not have time to read and do imaginative play which is important for brain development. You may not have that interactive time together which is also very important in the development of your child’s brain. When does your child get time to play, create, and just “be”? When do you have time to sink into a non-hurried conversation with your family members?
As we move into the summer time, think about how to juggle work, activities and family time in a way that allows you to make your child’s development well rounded. Alvin Rosenfield, Child Psychologist and co-author of The Over-Scheduled Child: Avoiding The Hyper-Parenting Trap, sites a study that shows that unstructured children’s vacations have decreased by 28 percent. How is this impacting our child’s development?
As the summer schedule is being set up, consider your children’s needs and your needs. If you as the parent are exhausted and grumpy by the end of the day, how has this really gifted your children and you? So first consider how to make balance a priority, making “time spent together” a priority. Creating strong relationships within the family will take you and your children much farther than that “great baseball season” that allowed for very little unhurried, quality time together.
Make sure that when you choose an activity for your child that you are still teaching your child balance and how to prioritize in a way that teaches him/her to take care of himself. Consider whether your child really wants to do this activity or if you as the parent really want him/her to do it. If we listen to children, before they have been “hard-wired” in their brains for this fast moving pace, they can guide us in what their needs are – maybe better than we as their parents are able to access because we have been “hard-wired” for this always-on-the-go pace.
Serve as a role model for your children to teach them what relaxation, enjoyment and down time look like. Show them how to “do nothing” and enjoy it, as our children often think they need to be doing something to be entertained. We need to help our children develop this and we can best do this by integrating it into our family life. Encourage and model balance between work and play.
Find ways that your interactions and together time can be fun without any competitive edge to it. Spend the time together with no goal in mind except for having fun with each other.
And when you are in the car heading from one thing to another, take advantage of the time. Shut the radio off and spend some time talking to your child about his/her day, what their worries and concerns are, or just play a game with each other that you continue every time you get in the car together. Make sure you spend time together laughing this summer, as this interaction “hard wires” the relationship together in the brain, as “firing together wires together”, which is something that is very difficult later in life to make up for and then develop.Tags: balance the activities for your child, chlidren need to play, summer planning
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Licensed Independent Clinical Social Worker
Licensed Independent Mental Health Practitioner
- Janie Pfeifer Watson, LICSW, is the founder and director of Wholeness Healing Center, a mental health practice in Grand Island, Nebraska with remote sites in Broken Bow and Kearney. Her expertise encompasses a broad range of areas, including depression, anxiety, attachment and bonding, coaching, couples work, mindfulness, trauma, and grief. She views therapy as an opportunity to learn more about yourself as you step more into being your authentic self. From her perspective this is part of the spiritual journey; on this journey, she serves as a mirror for her clients as they get to know themselves—and, ultimately, to love themselves.
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