So many of us are struggling as families
We’re angry and exhausted. Our homes, stuffed full of crazy clutter, are in chaos. And we’re constantly treading on eggshells to avoid explosive tantrums and rows. Even violence.
Horribly, too many of us – parents and children – feel like failures amongst those we love. And we blame ourselves for our failure.
But the truth is, it is not us, or our children, who are the problem. It is the way we live now.
In the endless rushing of our over busy lives most of us struggle because most of us aren’t wired to live at this speed. Not happily. Not without consequences. Not without pain.
And for many, if not most of us, the simple secret of a happier family life is to give ourselves some slack and slow down.
Now, I know when you’re seriously struggling with family life that might sound naive. Or impossible. Or just too airy fairy for words.
But there is some big thinking behind it. And having struggled as a parent and been in a dark place, I can say from the heart, it is possible to live family life slower and enjoy it more.
So, I’m going to share the simple but powerful ideas helping my family enjoy life slowed down. They don’t mean our life is stress free but it is a whole heap rosier than it was!!!
And hopefully these ideas can help you and your family tread a happier path together.
I would love to hear your stories and thoughts and what has worked for you.
And for more simple prompts to help you enjoy life slowed down do follow my Facebook page.
Simple Slow Parenting Tips
1. Walk Everywhere You Can
Walk everywhere you can as a family.
Or cycle or scoot.
Give yourself time to chat, wander, balance on walls, scuffle through leaves, catch up with neighbours and simply dawdle along.
The psychological and physical benefits of walking are huge for kids and adults.
2. Enjoy A Clutter Free Home
I cannot even begin to tell you how much calmer and happier decluttering made us.
I used to feel we were constantly tottering on the precipice of complete chaos.
By letting go of our crazy clutter – a box or so a week will do it – we created space for the whole family to really relax at home together.
Try these declutter tips if you’re struggling.
3. Get Outside Lots
Fresh air is a magical medicine for family life. It burns off crazy energy, sees off sulks and resets our body clocks so we can sleep naturally. Give the whole family a big dose daily.
Check out these easy ideas for outdoor play.
4. Focus On Calm Transitions
Our world’s worship of the god of busy has made parenting a high wire act.
We live with the constant fear of falling.
And getting out and getting there can be the trigger for the most explosive family rows.
It’s chaos. No one can find stuff. We’re anxious we’ll be late. And the children always play up.
If getting out the door turns into open warfare with the kids everyday do :
- Slash crazily unsustainable schedules.
- Clear clutter from your hall.
- Ditch lots of toys so others can be put away and everything else does NOT get lost.
- Avoid ALL screens. Including YOUR phone!
- Get enough sleep.
This will give you the time, space and energy to focus on transitioning calmly. And yeah, we’re the grown ups so no we don’t have to tolerate monkeying about but do have to channel calm.
Shrieking banshee impressions don’t help!!
Personally, my family will never be the most organised and our exit from the house every morning can still be pretty bonkers. But it’s pretty happy bonkers. There’s lots of laughter. And we cut each other some slack.
5. Read Aloud As A Family
Sitting down to share stories together gives the whole family time to slow down and rest. And telling stories is one of the most powerful ways humans have always connected as families.
So keep reading aloud even when kids can read fluently. Watching TV together can be lovely but just isn’t the same.
Try these book lists for great family reads.
6. Leave Kids Alone To Play
A good few hours of free play daily is as essential to child development as sleep.
Kids need imaginative play, games with rules (they control) and freestyle exploring in the backyard or park to process everything they learn daily about themselves and their world.
Lots of school age kids don’t get a daily dose because they’re too busy. Or lose it to screens.
Build real free play into everyday.
7. Be An Open House For Neighbours’ Kids
Children need one another. Not just family but kids up the street and round the block.
Our car crammed neighbourhoods make it incredibly hard for kids to play out these days.
So don’t overdo “play dates” but DO everything you can to make it as easy as possible for the kids on your street or block or building to connect with each other independently.
8. Buy Only A Few Great Toys
Children’s imagination is mind blowing.
They seriously can entertain themselves for hours with a few boxes and an old flower pot!!
(The kids on our street can anyway).
But we bombard them with toys that all too quickly become ankle wrenching clutter.
And give children the message that happiness lies in piles of forgotten stuff rather than time and space enjoyed with good friends.
So go easy on the toys. Invest in great ones.
9. Keep An Eye On Sugar
We know sugar is a baddie for kids. And us too.
But it sneaks in lots. And is usually just an open invitation to the crazy gang to come and whizz round wreaking havoc in family life, as by messing with our adrenalin levels it stops kids from enjoying focused play, puts us all on tenterhooks and prevents us sleeping.
And it IS addictive.
Hence constant begging for more. And a spiral of please – please – no tantrums.
So keep an eye on it. And keep cutting back.
10. Involve Them In You’re Life
If we’re truly honest, most of us spend an awful lot of our time trying to avoid our kids!!!
We depend on screens, childcare, grandparents or some latest toy to keep them out of our hair so we can “get on with our lives”.
Children aren’t daft. They know we do it to them and crave genuine time with us.
They’re also actually interested in what we do.
So slow down and let them join in cooking dinner or mowing the lawn or clearing the shed. When we really connect they’ll even help hoover and sort socks!! Honestly, it’s true.
And yes it takes longer but if we welcome them into our real lives we stop wasting time creating an artificial and at heart empty world for them.
11. Share Your Skill
The time we spend together is also a wonderful space to share our skills with our kids.
Teaching is at the heart of parenting but we’ve lost confidence in ourselves as teachers.
This isn’t a cry for home schooling just a call to believe in ourselves again so we can know the joy of passing on special skills to our kids.
It can be anything from baking a cake to changing a tyre, whistling or bowling a googly.
In that precious exchange between parent and child we share our past – and often our own parents’ past – so our children can take it forward into the future and beyond.
In each generation, by the simple sharing of skills with our children, we reach, as parents, across time in the most profound way.
These connections truly give our life meaning.
12. Connect With The Seasons
Life chucks lots at all of us. And at our families. We all face sickness and death. And sometimes disaster. Natural and man made.
But today’s hurrying, scurrying, busy world, in which we’re meant to chase success, doesn’t give us the tools to cope with pain or trouble.
Connecting our lives more deeply to the natural world and the constant passing of the seasons cannot protect us from pain or sorrow but can, research shows, keep us from falling into the deep trap of destructive, depression.
Growing a little food, picking fruit, helping harvest, planting trees or revisiting woodland month in, mouth out have been shown to improve mental health massively.
I’m a poor gardener but every year we grow raspberries and courgettes. And trips to the farm to pick strawberries and apples and to the woods for berries and crab apples for jellies and crumbles, are now favourite traditions.
More deeply tied to the seasons of our world, we can be less fearful of the passing of time and make space for the rich happiness that family life can bring …
Simple Next Steps
I do hope these ideas on enjoying life slowed down help you and your family in some way.
They ended up sounding a whole heap more highfalutin than intended but bottom line these simple steps can transform family life:
- Walk lots.
- Declutter everything you can.
- Get loads of fresh air.
- Stay calm leaving the house.
- Read cool books together.
- Get off their case & let them play.
- Have the neighbours’ kids round lots.
- Be stingy with toys (most are just clutter).
- Keep an eye on everyone’s sugar.
- Let them help you.
- Show them how to do stuff you do well.
- Plant, grow & pick stuff. Go to the woods.
Go on give it a go!!
And let me know how you get on. And for more help slowing down follow me on Facebook.