4 ways to slow down and spend time with your family
A Cook Children's pediatrician takes time to relax. Why shouldn't you?
Why is it important for us to find down time for our kids and our families? Dan Buettner writes in his book, “The Blue Zones” that taking time to relieve stress is one of the secrets not only to longevity, but to enjoying life free from chronic diseases. He quotes a 107 year old woman in the Sardinian village of Arzana: “Life is short. Don’t run so fast you miss it.”
The incidence of anxiety and depression in pediatrics is due in part to overscheduled children and families. Here are some suggestions on how to slow down and find some down time with your family.
- Gardening: My children’s happiest moments have been picking tomatoes and digging out potatoes in their grandparent’s garden. In describing her experiences in the garden, their grandmother, Jean Mangham writes “I love to get outside to feel the sun, smell the dirt and hear the birds sing. My garden provides me with a place to see the miracle of life. Put a small seed into the dirt and with just a little nurturing, you produce a fruit or a flower. Gardening also provides me with a great sense of pride, and how important that is to pass along to my grandchildren.”
- Kathleen Wayland, a music teacher, writes, “Relaxation is a learned behavior. A child’s day, even one spent at home, can be very stimulating, offering a little, unstructured quiet time. Having some quiet time with your child provides an opportunity for you to model relaxation for your child and let them know they can relax, even when it’s not naptime or bedtime. This is also a wonderful opportunity for some bonding time to deepen your connection with your child. Holding, rocking, singing and cuddling are all ways to have a quiet, bonding time that will relax both of you. Children need time to be stimulated and engaged, and they also need time to be at leisure. This down time is physically necessary for the brain to process the learning that occurs during structured activities and interaction.”
- One of my yoga instructors once said, “If you can breathe, you can do yoga.” The practice of yoga and meditation promotes physical and mental wellness. Heidi McGall, a trained yoga instructor teaches kids relaxation: “I have kids close their eyes and imagine a balloon in a big empty blue sky. Imagine anything that is bothering them – schoolwork, family life, things that are nagging them. Imagine tying all those troubles to the balloon. Then they set the balloon free. It floats off into the blue sky out of their vision and they are left with the perfect blue cloudless sky. Then take a big inhale and exhale and open their eyes.”
- Take your children outside. Being near trees and under a blue sky are inherently relaxing. Go for a walk, take a bike ride, plan a camping trip. Read the book, “Last Child in the Woods” by Richard Louvs. He describes why being in nature is important for children. He lists nature activities for kids and families. Have you and your kids seen the movie The Lorax? You should. It is a thoughtful look at the value of nature in the lives of our children.
And to quote another wise sage, “Life moves pretty fast. If you don't stop and look around once in a while, you could miss it.” – Ferris Bueller.