Today’s families keep a busy pace. Parents are seeing kids off to school, heading to work, husling through the day and shifting back to parenting mode. Parenting mode includes meals, homework, driving to activities, maintaining the family schedule, maintaining family relationships and friendships, and… well, being constantly in motion. That is often how families reports feeling. Today’s parents struggle with finding the balance between providing opportunities for their children to grow while also prioritizing time at home just being a family sometimes. Time at home together can be bogged down by the catch-up work of laundry, housework, and sleep. We are in a generation of parents that lean towards activities instead of stillness for fear of children missing out on opportunities to spend time with peers playing sports, or doing other activities. How do we slow down?
In a 2011 NY Times article, Alina Tugend said is well:
“The trouble is, many of us have bought into the idea that every child has a “hidden talent,” Professor Doherty said, and that we are failing our children if we don’t do everything possible to bring it to light.”
As Tuglend points out, a healthy amount of exposure to activities is good for children, but parents should not assess the quality of their parenting based on the opportunities they provide to their children. In other words, you are NOT a bad parent if you say ‘no’.
When we over schedule ourselves and our children, we rush ourselves through things and we rush them. We create a constant state of anxiety, preparing for the next event, even if the next event is simply rushing them to bed because the evening activities resulted in returning home later than preferred. How do we set limits for ourselves and our children?
Work with your spouse to write a family mission statement:
“A family mission statement is a combined, unified expression from all family members of what your family is all about — what it is you really want to do and be — and the principles you choose to govern your family life.” -Stephen Covey. For more information about writing a family mission statement click here
Look at your family’s schedule and decide as a couple if the activities you’ve committed to reflect your family mission statement.
Set a limit of one activity per child at a time, maximum.
Do not pressure children to sign up for activities. Follow their lead and their curiosities to allow them to grow in their areas of interest.
Set aside a minimum of one night a week to stay home together. That might mean saying no to someone or something. It might mean saying no to one of your children’s activities. It might mean saying no to a play date, a family member, or work. We commit ourselves to work schedules and respect the boundaries of work hours. Use the same mindset in setting aside time to spend as a family.
Lastly, STOP. Take a deep breath and laugh together. Being late is ok sometimes. Why? Because the relationship with each of your family members is more important than the activity. Prioritize treating each other with love and respect amidst the chaos, because how you treat one another teaches your children how to treat others- it has a lasting impact far greater than getting someplace on time, every time.
Eileen earned her Masters of Art degree in Counseling and Psychotherapy from Adler Graduate School in Richfield, MN after obtaining her undergraduate degree in Psychology and French from the University of Wisconsin, Stevens Point. Eileen’s professional experience has included assessment and therapeutic intervention work with pediatric and well as adult clients. As a licensed professional clinical counselor, Eileen uses a frame work of family systems and cognitive behavioral therapy.
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