As parents, we all want our children to be happy, confident, healthy and well balanced. But how do we strike a balance between the right amount of clubs and activities, time for homework and crucial relaxation time at home?
They have to learn to swim, it’s important for them to get enough exercise and fresh air, learning an instrument is a valuable and rewarding skill and it’s nice for them to have hobbies outside of school, but how do we fit all this in and when does it all get too much?
We don’t have all the answers, and of course every family and child is different, but luckily we know some experts who can shed some really useful and thought-provoking light on the subject.
Smiley Coach Lisa Parkes , who runs life coaching classes for children, says: “In my coaching practise, I see lots of children who don’t know how to relax. This is often because they are overloaded with after school clubs, sports practise and homework. Learning to relax is an art form and is very important.
“Mindfulness isn’t as you might think; sitting with your legs crossed, eyes closed deep breathing whilst chanting ‘OOOOM’ like a Buddhist monk. It’s about learning how to quieten the mind. For children this can be bubble blowing in the bath, watching a candle flicker, walking on the grass with no shoes on or lying on a blanket and watching the clouds float by. We practise this in my creative coaching workshops and we call it taking a brain break.
“It is proven that 10 minutes of mindfulness a day develops social and emotional intelligence in children and adults, resulting in great self-awareness, less stress and high levels of happiness and empathy.
“When we are busy ‘doing’ instead of ‘being’, we are aren’t actually living our lives. We become slaves to schedules and to-do lists that don’t allow our creativity to flow. Children who have too many activities suffer in this way as they are rushing to the next thing and not enjoying where they are in the moment. Routine is great for kids and they need to know what is coming next but they also need time to think and just be. They need to know how to entertain themselves and not expect somebody else to do it, otherwise how can they master the art of planning their own time?”
Lisa says signs that your child is overscheduled include:
- They are struggling to get up in the morning for school
- You are rushing around and not able to spend time together to share meal
- They tell you they are bored when there is nothing scheduled in for them to do
- They are grouchy and overeat when there isn’t anything going on
- They make excuses for not going to their activities
Lisa recommends an iphone App called Calm.com, which teaches the art of calming the mind and induces a good night’s sleep. Mums might want to try it too! You can choose from different relaxing nature scenes like meadows or beaches and then select a 2, 10 or 20-minute session. Birds, ocean waves and other natural sounds add to the peacefulness and children see it as a game; after each session, you unlock new scenes and sounds to relax to.
She has also come across a book called 10 Mindful Minutes, written by famous actress Goldie Hawn. A review on Amazon reads: “Practical, timely, relevant, and inspiring, 10 Mindful Minutes is Goldie Hawn’s gift to parents who want to help their children learn better and live happier lives.”
Surrey clinical psychologist Dr Emily Cooper, who works for the NHS and also runs pampering sessions for parents of young children, says: “It is tempting to pack your children’s days or after school time with varied, stimulating activities and playdates, guided by a host of heart-felt intentions: to provide them with exciting opportunities you never had; to protect them (and you) from boredom; to nurture and develop them into well-rounded individuals. After all, everyone else seems to be immersed in the juggle, and it’s a worthy sacrifice of one’s own time, stress levels and money… or is it?
“Whilst the benefits of some activities to learning, enjoyment, confidence are undeniable, there are a couple of things to keep in mind that may make you think twice about squeezing in that extra class.
“When thinking about your family’s weekly schedule allow room for ‘down-time’. Too many activities can be over-stimulating for children and lead to stress and exhaustion for all parties involved.
“Rest and unstructured time at home can be vital, in helping them digest the day’s demands, quieten and soothe busy minds, as well as providing space in which to initiate and engage in imaginative play.
“Whether out and about or at home, spending quality time with your child gives even the most engaging and stimulating class a run for its money. There will always be demands, niggles and responsibilities pulling at your attention, but leaving housework, putting down your electronic devices, and opening up to your child’s world in whatever he or she is doing with undivided interest and attentiveness, even for a little while, can bring with it immeasurable benefits for the both of you. Spending time with your child in this way communicates to him or her that you are interested in them and they matter to you as they are, nourishing their sense of self-worth, and confidence in their social world.”