Hello again Busy Moms! I’m popping over from Nurture and Thrive to talk about slow parenting today. Have you heard about slow parenting? I read about it here myself just a few months ago and it’s a philosophy that really resonated with me. It’s the idea that parenting doesn’t have to be rushed or about To Do lists, but rather it is about spending time together as a family and living in the moment.
I think slow parenting is a bit of a backlash against the overscheduled child, a problem the American Academy of Pediatricians (AAP) discusses in their report on play. The AAP’s main concern is stressed-out parents and kids and lack of quality family time. When we start feeling overextended, stressed, and surrounded by a flurry of our kids activities we can start to lose ourselves and our sense of who we are as a family.
In the end it’s really all about finding the right balance.
Having your kids taking classes and being involved in extracurricular activities in and of itself isn’t a bad thing—in fact it’s a good thing, especially for children in middle and high school. On average 10th graders in the US are involved in 2-3 extracurricular activities for about 5 hours a week outside of school. Research shows that average involvement in extracurricular activities predicts academic achievement and involvement two years later.
But it’s one of those things that is good in moderation. Average involvement in activities predicts optimal outcomes, like academic achievement, but too much or too little predicts academic burn out.
Summer is a perfect time for us to reexamine our lives. Are we running around from here to there never connecting, never being intentional until one day we wake up and summer is over in a flurry of never-ending activities? Or are we at home with young children trying to be mindful and present but feeling like the days are unending and monotonous?
So, how can we slow down in summer?
- Let your child be a driving force in which activities they choose. Help them to mindfully choose the activities they would enjoy or that might offer a break from their normal schedule during the school year.
- If you are staying home with your kids this summer, have unstructured time be a part of your days. Research shows unstructured time leads to better decision making skills, creativity and belief in oneself. This is true for both older and younger kids. But also include a simple routine that helps you stay mindful (free printable below!)
- If you are working during the summer or otherwise have to live by a schedule, then schedule freetime and family time. As counterintuitive as that sounds, if you don’t schedule it then it probably won’t happen. Get inspired with my SLOW parenting guide below.
I read an article the other day on how as we get older time seems to fly by faster. In my previous life I lectured about this when talking about adult development. It’s the idea that as we age life gets more predictable. When interviewing large numbers of older adults, most remember their life between the ages of 10 and 30 most vividly. Researchers think this is true because we form our identity and experience new things during that stage of life, thus we spend more cognitive energy trying to understand things and remember things. As we get older our lives are more predictable and we speed through it only to look back and think how fast it went retrospectively. When you add to that watching a child grow literally before your eyes, time speeds by us so fast.
We can’t slow down time, but we can be mindful and present in that time. There is a lot of evidence, for example, that practicing mindfulness leads to better memory. Slow parenting is a kind of mindfulness, so maybe we can slow down the perception of time at the least.
A SLOW Summer Routine
So, what about being lazy? I’m guilty of this one! We are decidedly not overscheduled at our house, but sometimes days go by and I wonder what did we do? It’s the same effect of time passing by too quickly. Here’s the thing, lazy does not equal intentional. And I’m all for a lazy day, but when you’re intentional about it’s guilt free! Just like with kids activities, as a family you can be too scheduled or not scheduled enough.
Slow parenting is about finding that balance. And younger kids especially thrive on some kind of routine. I LOVE this idea for a daily summer guide from Let’s Lasso the Moon that has a theme for each day. Below is my version of not so much a routine, but more of an inspiration for summer days– little reminders to savor and be intentional and enjoy summer for everything that it is. My goal is to do something in every category each week, well, that is, unless we only do two things and that’s okay too, after all it’s a slow summer.
Click for your free SLOW summer printable: How to have a SLOW parenting summer by Nurture and Thrive for Busy Mom’s Helper
Here’s what a week in our slow parenting summer looked like for us.
Summer: One day we met with friends to go to the splashpark. We went to the pool one evening as a family after dinner. We had a friend over for a playdate and ran in the sprinkler.
What is summer to you? Make a list of your favorite activities for inspiration for the simple joys of the season.
Love: A friend was sick so we made a “get well” card and mailed it. On the weekend we all cuddled together for a family movie night.
Love is doing anything together as a family, caring for someone else or a pet, or giving back to the community.
Outside: If it is nice out we try to get outside right after breakfast before it’s too hot. About two days a week this doesn’t happen because we have a playdate or we are going to my son’s one scheduled activity this summer: swim lessons. One morning last week we kicked the soccer ball around and on another day my son played in the sandbox. In the evenings we walk or bike together.
Going outside is an essential part of a slow summer. Ever notice how time slows down outside? It’s easier to live in the moment in nature for kids and adults.
Wonder: At the beginning of the week we went to the library. On the way I asked my son what kind of book he wanted to get. He was interested in rocket ships. I helped him type in “rocket ships” on the computer and helped him find the book. We read the book several times that week and he developed an interest in the Mars Rover. We watched videos about the Mars Rover during lunch a few days. Then we did a rocket ship craft later that week.
Wonder could be anything. It could be a craft or a project. I think the important thing is to have your children lead with their question. What do they want to know about?
So what is a SLOW parenting summer?
It’s living a FULL life. It’s about doing simple things. It’s about savoring the season, enjoy time together, being outside and learning something as well. For me, the slowness is better than a flurry of activities or completely open days that end up being forgetful. My hope is to get to the end of summer and say to myself, what a wonderful summer that was.
Happy Slow Summer!