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Is “Keeping Up” Keeping Our Children Down?

 

It’s nearly 3pm and, at schools around the country, parents stand outside classrooms in small groups, chatting as they wait for their children to come out of class.  I am one of the waiting parents and I have noticed that there’s topic of conversation that comes up repeatedly – our children’s after school schedules.  We list off swimming lessons, rugby practices, art classes, play dates… and commiserate over how busy our children are and the effort it is to ferry them around as well as getting dinner on the table and making sure homework gets done.  Many, parents and children alike, seem to spend their afternoons rushing around and, by the end of the week, are ragged.

Once the kids come out from class, I watch a number of them drag their feet as they dawdle behind their parent, who is making a beeline for the car and urging them to “hurry up, we need to get to ballet”.  The kids can’t keep up literally or spiritually.  The reality of going to ballet every Thursday afternoon isn’t as exciting as it had seemed when they were begging Mum to sign them up, especially after having soccer on Monday, piano lessons on Tuesday and a playdate with Rebecca on Wednesday.

Why do we put our kids (and ourselves) through this?  Here are some of the things I hear parents saying –

“He wants to do all these activities”.
“It’s good for her to learn new skills”.
“The afternoons are so long when the kids don’t have something to do”.

Are any of these really good reasons for exhausting ourselves and our kids?

I think the variety of after school activities available to our children is great but I also think our children need us to pace them, like a pacer might for a marathon runner.  It’s like when they order the enormous piece of chocolate cake at the cafe but only manage to eat half of it – they couldn’t judge in advance how much they could eat.  If we set up a lifestyle of constant doing and achieving for our kids, they will come to believe that they must always be “productive” in some way.  They will go into adulthood overstretching themselves and not really enjoying any of what they do because they’re too tired trying to keep up with the lifestyle and expectations that have been created for them.

Overscheduling is symptomatic of our attitudes and isn’t the only pressure that we, as a society, are putting our kids under.  There are many other ways that our children experience the expectation to keep doing, to achieve and to keep up too –  anxiety from their parents & teachers to do well at school, complex dynamics within their peer group to negotiate, time spent on devices playing addictive games & subject to the impossible standards of social media, bedrooms overcrowded with more toys & gadgets than they can use…  All these things have a place when well managed but, they also all take a child away from him or her self.  A day crowded with activities, expectations and material things doesn’t allow our children time to know who they truly are.

Because, it is knowing who we are without our schedules, our achievements, our things and, even, our relationships, that is our source of peace. 

I watched a very candid, thought-provoking documentary on Netflix this week called Not Alone in which a young woman who had lost her best friend to suicide as a teen interviewed other teens who had experienced depression and suicidal thoughts.  At the end of the documentary, the teens spoke about what they were doing to find peace and move forward.  They all mentioned things that were essentially about knowing and being their true selves – talk therapy, meditation and doing activities they deeply enjoyed, for example.  These things had been missing from their lives previously.

One thing I noticed about the teens who spoke so openly in Not Alone was that they had been tuning in to the wrong things for their sense of self.  Things that, in the end, sent them spiraling downwards – the expectations of their parents & teachers, trying to fit in with their peers, careless comments & dishonestly perfect images on social media feeds… It seemed that, if they had had a greater sense of themselves, they may have had more perspective and possibly avoided getting sucked into the black hole of comparison. It was in trying to “keep up” in some way that most of them had found themselves spiraling downwards.

 

WHAT WE CAN DO TO MANAGE THE PRESSURE ON OUR CHILDREN

I often hear reports that anxiety, depression and self-harm among teenagers is rising and showing up at an earlier age, even in children who are still single-digit by age.  This weighs heavily on my heart – we used to think of teenagers as vibrant, optimistic, carefree young people but, instead, they are crumbling because society has created for them a lifestyle that feels impossible to keep up with.  We’re all responsible.  I’m sure there are things we parents can do while our children are young to nurture a perspective and a lifestyle that supports a sense of self strong enough to withstand some of the inevitable pressure.  Here are some of the things I try to do for  my boys with that end in mind –

  • Pace their activities – I leave time in our schedule for doing nothing in particular.  My boys savour a day at home in the weekend – playing, pottering, doing whatever they feel like in the moment.  Every child will have a different appetite for stimulation & activity and we need to be tuned in enough to find the right balance for them.
  • Encourage them to do things simply for the fun of it, without evaluating or measuring their achievement.
  • Introduce them to meditative & mindful activities Here’s a post I wrote about how I’m doing that.
  • Have conversations that help them to know and express themselves eg. to explore and share what they really think and feel about things so that they can make good decisions for themselves, based on what they think, not what others think.
  • Provide an example – show my boys an example of how to live a well-paced life, in which I put my sense of who I am at the centre of my life rather than other people’s expectations.  (This is the most difficult one for me)

 

CONCLUSION

The message that our children have to be working all the time (to achieve a goal, improve a skill, appear positively to others and generally keep up) is setting them up not for the happiness we expect but a sense of constantly having to prove themselves.  Of, course, we are intending to give our children a “good start in life” but we’re often coming from a place of fear (eg. fear of our kids not fitting in or fear of them not being successful in life).  It’s fear which we end up passing on to them.

Reaching for goals needs to be tempered with stepping back to get perspective and to rest.  Being overscheduled during the primary years is a step onto the treadmill of always doing and never being.  Being themselves.  I’d rather my boys were happily themselves than unhappily keeping up.

 

Much love to you and your little souls,

 

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Meditation for Children – We’re Just Getting Started

Sometimes it seems that there’s an opinion out there that a person can’t be truly spiritual if they don’t meditate.   Now, I know it’s not true – there are many paths for increased awareness and the expansion of Love – but, there is an undeniable mountain of scientific and anecdotal evidence that those who do meditate experience numerous benefits.  From what I’ve heard, Deepak Chopra sits in meditation for at least a couple of hours early every morning and look how prolific and profound his work is. There’s definitely something in it and meditation could prove to be a practice that really suits my boys.  So I recently decided to start introducing them to it.

The thing is, I don’t meditate regularly myself.  I’m not even sure what meditation is exactly or why we do it.  My working definition is “watching the mind & body to become aware of my true self as the observer”.  But then, some meditations use a lot of imagination or deep contemplation around an idea, which is more than just “watching”.  And some people do it purely for physical relaxation.  Perhaps the purpose of a meditation session is simply the intention we bring to it.

Anyway, my big question was, how was I going to lead Jake and Thomas in meditation when I really had no idea what I was doing myself?  I thought back to one of my early posts on introducing my boys to God/TheUniverse/Spirit and I remembered that I didn’t need to have all the answers.   What I did need to do was let go of my ego’s desire to feel more knowledgeable about meditation than my boys and to join them as a learner.  If they see me as a fellow explorer on the spiritual path, it shows them that no one of us is an expert – we can become experts for ourselves.

 

HOW WE GOT STARTED WITH MEDITATION

After accepting that I really didn’t know what I was doing, I figured I’d do the modern thing and use an app to get myself started.  I’d heard of Headspace from a number of different people so downloaded it before going away on my trip to Barcelona & Dubai.  Meditating poolside on the roof of a beautiful hotel was easy.  I managed to do it every day while on holiday and my mind focussed pretty easily. It has proven harder since returning to the busyness of normal life as a Mum and the accompanying busyness of mind.  But I’m approaching this with a light heart, I don’t beat myself up about missing sessions or spending the whole time thinking about what’s next on my to-do list.

I had done the occasional super-simple meditation with Jake (aged 6) previously, talking him through them myself so he had some familiarity with being still and focussed.  One evening, I showed him the Headspace app and let him choose one of the kids’ meditations for us to try together.  He chose the sleep one, since he was off to bed, and we did it together, Jake lying on his bed and me on the floor of his room.  My plan was to creep out of the room once the meditation had finished and leave Jake to doze off but the novelty was too exciting for him and he wanted to do another one after it finished.  I left his room that night pleasantly surprised by Jake’s receptivity and eagerness.  I’m sure being allowed to use my phone (usually off-limits) had something to do with it.  Now, when I’m tucking him into bed at night, he’ll sometimes ask to do a Headspace meditation together.

So far, Jake hasn’t asked me much about what meditation is, he’s just keen to do it.  Presumably, as we meditate more, questions will arise but, also, more “answers” will reveal themselves to us.  Right now, we’re playing and exploring.  I’m meditating both on my own and with Jake.  As time goes by, I think we’ll each better understand what kind of meditation we like (if at all) and what it means to us personally.

I haven’t yet started meditation with 3-year-old Thomas.  I might try him out with the Headspace app but I suspect some of the language will be a little hard for him follow.  He might be happy just to join in with Jake and I anyway, to be a part of our exploration.  I can probably make up my own super-short meditations for him too, based on the ones I’ve heard.

 

MEDITATION AND “REAL LIFE”

Helping them to finding their own repertoire and routine of spiritual practices is only one of the ways we can nurture our children’s spirituality.  Our spirituality is not just about specific practices that we do in a quiet space, removed from the rest of life.  It’s also in the way that we go about all that we do.  The usual activities of our day can offer us “meditative moments” if we look for them (just as it can spontaneously inspire prayer or gratitude, for example).  Here are some meditative moments my boys and I have shared together recently –

  • eating the first mouthful of our meal with our eyes closed, noticing the smell, taste, texture and other feelings the food gives us.  (Dessert is a yummy one to start with 😊)
  • watching a drip of rain or shower-water roll down the glass, all the way to the bottom.
  • colouring in (I like to join in with my boys using my own adult’s colouring book – it’s more inspiring for me than Bob the Builder).
  • sensory play eg. playdough, water play, painting, sand.
  • taking 3-5 belly breaths together to savour the moment.
  • stroking the family pet (have you noticed how easily we give them our full attention?)

 

IN SUMMARY – MEDITATION AS A SUGGESTION

I want to introduce my boys to many spiritual practices.  I want them to have the chance to explore different ones, looking for what resonates, what feels good and useful to them.  Meditation may or may not suit them and what works for them may be very different to what works for me.  I wrote more about our children finding their own ways of connecting in my blog post Why We Can’t Pass Our Spirituality Onto Our Children.

I sometimes feel inspired to suggest to Jake and Thomas that we say a prayer or share something we’re each grateful for or, now, meditate together.  But, if they’re not keen, they’re never made to join in.  I simply give them the opportunity to experience the practices for themselves.  I’ll let you know how we are going with our exploration of meditation in a few months.

 

Much love to you and your little souls,

 

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I am in no way affiliated with the Headspace app.  In this blog post, I have simply shared my personal experience.

Spiritual Kids E-Course – A Tool Box for All Spiritual Parents

While I’m always on the look-out for natural opportunities to bring spirituality into conversation with my family, I sometimes struggle to engage my boys and bring the ideas to life.  So, when I came across Christina Fletcher’s Spiritual Kids E-Course (Building the foundations for the spiritually aware family), which included activities for parents to do with their children, I was keen to try it out.

Delivered to my inbox weekly over 6 weeks, the course was manageable for our busy family.  Each week, there was a short video for parents to explain the week’s topic, a workbook full of practical ways to share the ideas with our children and, sometimes, a meditation.  Although the course has an easy-to-follow structure, it is designed as a “toolbox” of ideas and activities to dip into as needed.  I have only just finished the course but have already watched some of the videos more than once and used course activities to help me respond to things that have come up in our family.  This speaks to the relevance of the material and I know I will be dipping in regularly!

Christina’s invitation is to “play” with the activities of the course.

“Spirituality, believe it or not, is meant to be enjoyed and lived, and not seriously forced upon us”. – Christina Fletcher

The playfulness of many of the activities make them engaging for parents and children alike! They include crafts, reflective activities, meditations, stories and poems.  Christina understands that children need fun, varied ways to engage and that their attention spans can be short.  Designed for 3-13 year-olds, there are activities suitable for all children in this age range and they be can used over again as needed.  One of the weekly topics was An Introduction to Meditation, an area I was particularly interested to get tips on as I’m a “beginning meditator” myself.  I was able to teach my 6-year-old a simple breathing meditation, which he has asked to do again more than once.  I got some great ideas for “meditative activities” to do with my 3-year-old to introduce him to the idea of taking some quiet time to be with himself.

Christina has set up a Facebook group for parents using Spiritual Kids to share ideas & experiences and ask questions as they use the course materials.  She is actively involved in this group, ready to help in any way she can.

The Spiritual Kids course, is helping me to make spirituality more dynamic and alive in our home.  I am becoming more tuned into myself & my children and am better able to help my boys to tune into themselves.  Christina has created this course with a full heart, sharing her wisdom in a way that allows families to bring their own perspective to the content and activities.  It is both accessible for families who are new on their spiritual path and insightful in a way that will  enrich the spiritual connection within families further along on their journey.

I got even more than I expected from Spiritual Kids – and my expectations were high because I love Christina’s work!  It is an incredible resource and I am excited to see how it continues to deepen the spiritual connection within my family. For anyone looking for a way to shift from just talking about spirituality with their children to bringing it to life, the Spiritual Kids E-Courseavailable here at spirituallyawareparenting.com, will get you started and sustain your journey together.

 

Much love to you and your little souls,

 

29/8/17 – Since writing this review in May, I have purchased other products created by Christina for my personal use.  As a keen user and supporter of her work, Christina has recently invited me to participate in an affiliate program.  I share her offerings with you gladly, knowing from personal experience the incredible value they give to parents and their children.

 

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Is Spirituality Just Good Psychology?

As time goes by, the distinctions between mind, body and spirit blur for me. I can see how interlinked these aspects of ourselves are, how one affects the other.  Looking at current trends in psychology, such as mindfulness, growth mindset and positive psychology, as practices, they are very similar to those people might use for spiritual connection.  Couldn’t we equate mindfulness with spiritual meditation, for example?

So I have found myself asking, is spirituality just good psychology?

 

FIRSTLY, SPIRITUALITY IS GOOD PSYCHOLOGY

We can turn to research on the brain to see the impact of psychological and spiritual practices on its development.  Both mindfulness and spiritual meditation change the brain in similar ways.  To give an example, they both increase the cortical thickness of the hippocampus, thereby reducing the incidence and severity of depression.  This is just one small example but it illustrates my point.

Whether we approach our practices from a spiritual or purely psychological perspective, this science appears to reduce them to simply exercises we do to convince our brains to be happier.  Our emotions are, essentially, our brain’s response to our thinking, after all.  Is there more to them than that?

 

SPIRITUALITY MAKES IT MORE BENEFICIAL

In the midst of my wonderings, I watched a YouTube video.  In it, an educational and spiritual researcher said that bringing a spiritual aspect to many of the psychological practices used today magnifies their benefit for people. Her comment was made in passing and I would have been interested to hear her elaborate but it got me thinking about why it might make a difference.

Here’s my conclusion – spirituality brings meaning to the practices.  Thinking to myself, “I am going to watch my breath mindfully” feels different to “I am going to quiet my mind to sense my connection with Life”.  One limits our experience to a specific task and the other opens us up to the limitless.  One feels functional.  The other feels meaningful.

Some who are skeptical of spirituality may argue that people are just creating meaning that doesn’t really exist when they bring spirituality to their practices.  But, once a person has experienced their own spirituality, its truth is undeniable. I have experienced greater peace, faith, oneness and intuition when my intentions are spiritual rather than just to perform mental exercises for stress relief.  It brings an extra dimension to my practice and provides the real reason for doing it.

 

BRINGING SPIRITUAL PRACTICES TO OUR CHILDREN

We are doing a great service to our children if we teach them mental practices from a psychological point-of-view.  If we do it from a spiritual point of view, we are offering them even more.

I would argue that, even when going in without spiritual intention, there is the possibility of experiencing something spiritual because our spirituality is a part of us whether we acknowledge it or not.

Let’s look at some current psychological practices, how a spiritual intention can be enhance them and some simple ways we could share them with our children.

 

Mindfulness & Spiritual Mindfulness

The term “mindfulness” is used both as a psychological and a spiritual term.  For the purposes of this post, I am using “mindfulness” as a purely psychological practice and “spiritual mindfulness” to speak of it as a spiritual practice.  Mindfulness is bringing our attention fully to the present moment and noticing & accepting what is, including our own thoughts & feelings.  This is exactly what spiritual mindfulness is too.  But to do it as a spiritual practice is to do it knowing that our thoughts, feelings and experiences are not who we are.  When we are mindful with this intention, we may sense our oneness with Life.  We may even hear something that Life has to say to us now that we have turned down the volume of our mind’s chatter.  After a mindfulness meditation, we may feel relaxed and calm.  After a spiritual mediation, we may also feel connected and able to separate ourselves (our identity, our worth, our happiness…) from our thoughts, feelings and experiences.

What a liberation to realize that the “voice in my head” is not who I am. Who am I then? The one who sees that. – Eckhart Tolle

Practising Spiritual Mindfulness with Our Children:  Both psychological and spiritual mindfulness can be practiced as a formal meditation or as we go through our day. A very simple introduction for our children is to have them lie down with their hand/s on their heart or tummy.  As their chest/tummy rises and falls with their breath, they can imagine ocean waves going up and down.  This is mindfulness.  Once they are settled into this, ask them to watch themselves doing this.  They could do this by imagining that they are looking down on themselves from above, like a seagull flying over the ocean.  This adds the spiritual component of awareness – being aware of themselves as separate from their body and thoughts.

 

Growth Mindset & Faith

Essentially, a growth mindset is based on the belief that our abilities and attributes can be developed through hard work (rather than the belief that they are fixed and we can’t do much about them).  A growth mindset is one that, among other things, is resilient in the face of failure because it understands that there is learning to be found in failure – learning that can be used to inform the next creative move.  A growth mindset can be applied to many situations, many environments and to life in general.  The way I see it, faith enables us to develop a growth mindset further than we might otherwise.  When we have faith, we trust that we are supported by the Universe.  Therefore, we are more willing to take a risk when it feels like the right thing to do but not necessarily the most logical thing to do.  I see my own mindset shifting from a more fixed mindset to a growth mindset as I develop more faith.

Practising Faith with Our Children:  One way to help our children develop a growth mindset is in the way we talk about risk and ‘failures’.  If we teach that risk is to be avoided, that failure is embarrassing or deems our efforts wasted and to give up when it doesn’t first work out, we teach them to fear their logically unsafe ideas – those that are more creative or intuitive, for example.  We want to hear ourselves instead telling our children, “try it out”, “that didn’t work but now you have narrowed down the options” or “wow, I never would’ve thought of that!”  We can’t make our children have faith but we can remind them that God always wants the best for them and is supporting them all the way.  We may recognise moments when our children are feeling inspired and encourage them to follow those ideas, even saying, “I can see you’re inspired, you have an idea your heart really wants to follow”.

 

Positive Psychology & Inherent Worth

Positive psychology came about as a response to the problem-focused approach of traditional psychology.  Its main idea is that psychology should be concerned just as much with building people’s strengths and thriving as it is with healing their problems.  The numerous studies on happiness we hear about have sprung from the positive psychology movement.  From my spiritual perspective, building a person’s strengths and maximising their thriving begins with their belief in their own worth.  (My very first blog post was entitled A Child’s Worth.)  If we understand that we are each inherently worthy, a deliberate expression of God,  we don’t question our deserving of a fulfilling, happy life.  We understand that we are intended to be fulfilled and happy.  We start to feel obliged, even, to develop our God-given strengths and to live fully as the unique person that we are.  It can’t be more positive than that!

Practising Worth with Our Children:  As parents, it is our job to continuously reflect our children’s worth back to them.  They need to see it in the way that we interact with them – our unconditional love, our appreciation of their strengths, our acceptance of their “weaknesses”, our efforts to really see them and to tailor our parenting to them.  I think that honouring their joy is an aspect of this – joy is an essential element of thriving.  Currently, Jake is into climbing.  So we have built a simple treehouse at home, we look out for climbable trees when we’re out-and-about and we regularly go to playgrounds.  By prioritising opportunities for him to climb, I am letting Jake know that I see and value who he is and that he is worthy of joy.  (Not to be confused with tending to every whim.)

 

IN SUMMARY: SPIRITUALITY IS MORE THAN PSYCHOLOGY

From the outside, many of the practices of psychology and spirituality look the same.  It is the intention behind them that makes them different.  And it is the intention that can make them even more meaningful and powerful in our lives.  Spirituality is good psychology but it is a whole lot more as well.

 

Much love to you and your little souls,

 

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JUST BE – Presence and Stillness

BABIES: THE BEST LESSON IN JUST BEING

Before having Jake, I lived a tightly-scheduled life.  It was a fine balance trying to “keep all the balls in the air”.  At that point, I had a sense that life wasn’t meant to be lived with so much structure and so much to do but I didn’t dare drop a ball.  Then Jake came along.  As a baby, he didn’t nap for more than 40 minutes at a time and, when he wasn’t sleeping, he constantly wanted to be held – by someone who was standing up and not in a front pack or sling.  A day spent standing up with a baby over my shoulder was exhausting.  But worse than that was the incredible frustration of not being able to get anything done.  Sometimes he’d fall asleep on me while feeding.  I didn’t dare move him incase he woke but I’d feel stuck, angry even, that he wasn’t in his cot so I could use his nap time to do something.  (On retrospect, maybe God was trying to give me some rest!)  Many of the balls I had been juggling promptly fell to the ground and I felt that I was failing.

But, over time, I shifted gears.  It seemed to partly happen on its own, just by being in Jake’s presence.  He was never in a rush or concerned by the dishes stacked on the kitchen bench.   I realised I had to pick which balls to juggle and which to let go of.  Of course, I never dropped the love-and-care-for-my-baby ball but I learned to sometimes let someone else carry it for a while.  I did let go of the regular-contact-with-friends ball and the clean-and-tidy house ball and the keep-fit ball.  All of which I have picked up again as the boys have gotten older and it has seemed more manageable but with far fewer expectations.

Dropping all of these self-imposed obligations created the opportunity to sometimes JUST BE.  I am no longer attached to the madness of constantly doing.  It is an enormous relief and has added such depth to my life.  I enjoy doing puzzles with Thomas and building Lego with Jake without being distracted by things I feel I “should” be doing.  I’d be lying if I said I am always present with them but I am much less torn between BEING with my boys and tasks that need to be done.  I compartmentalise better, trying to give my full attention to whatever is at hand.  I measure my day by the quality of my time, not what I produced.

So, three years after Jake’s birth, I was able to enjoy Thomas’ babyhood a lot more.  It wasn’t easy-breezy, I especially found it hard to meet both of their very different needs at the same time.  But, if Thomas fell asleep on me and Jake was ok, instead of worrying about the housework, I enjoyed JUST BEING with Thomas or listening to an inspirational audio book.  Instead of surrounding Thomas in the anxious energy I had Jake (I’m so sorry Jake), I bathed him in my contentment & peace & joy in him.  It felt like time well-used.

 

WHY WE NEED TO JUST BE

Presence and stillness have so many benefits.  We’ve heard research sited showing that the health of people who regularly spend time in prayer or meditation is better than that of people who don’t.  We know the refreshed and alive feeling we have after taking time to do the thing that absorbs us so much that we loose track of time.   And have you noticed that your best ideas come to you when you’re not trying? Mine usually come to me in the shower or when I’m out on a walk – when I’m quiet enough within to hear the guidance I’m being given.

“Quiet the mind and the soul will speak.” – Eckhart Tolle

JUST BEING is, from my experience, a spiritual practice.  Without the busy noise of our minds, we can feel the energy of Life.  We can sense more easily what it has to say to us.  I want Jake and Thomas to be able to go about their day with presence and to be able to stop at times in order to fill their tanks, reflect & hear the voice of their own spirits.  If they are to be able to live their own truth, our children need to be able to connect with it first and, as their parents, we are the ones to teach them how to do it.
There’s a lot we can do.  There are two things I do at the moment that I think help my children to JUST BE at their young ages (2 and 5 years):
1) Show them, model for them, how to take time to be present and still.
2) Give them unstructured, quiet time to be present and still.

1) Show Them 

I think being a model is one of the most powerful tools we have as parents. If our children watch us constantly busy, not taking time to focus on this moment or to enjoy ourselves, rest and connect with God, they are going to believe that that is how life is lived.  Don’t we want more for them – both in adulthood and in their childhood years?  When they enjoy my undivided attention as we play together or see me take 5 minutes to play the piano or are asked not to disturb me because I’m having “quiet time” in my room, I’m showing them that these practices of JUST BEING have an important place in my day.  They may also notice that, when I don’t do these things, my patience is shorter and I become more preoccupied with my to-dos.  As Jake is getting older, I find myself naturally telling him a bit more about how these habits connect me with myself and God.  (I’ve only been discussing who God is relatively recently so it’s baby steps at the moment)

2) Give them unstructured, quiet time

I have always been very careful to preserve Jake and Thomas’ unstructured, at-home time.  Now in his first term at school, Jake has no after-school activities because my husband and I feel he needs time to rest and not be “on”.  When he’s in his room playing with his Lego, I consider it his spiritual quiet time.  He is present, following his own rhythm, resting his body and mind.  Once he has adjusted to his new life as a school-by, we’ll have more playdates and consider 1 or 2 extra-curricular activities.   If there’s an activity he’s keen to do or we think could be a match for him, we’ll sign him up to have a go.  But, most afternoons he needs to be at home.  From what I have seen, over-scheduling only exhausts children, gives the message that they must do, do, do & achieve, achieve, achieve in life and robs them of their time to connect with themselves & God.

 

CHILDREN WILL SHOW US HOW TO JUST BE

However, this task of teaching a way of life that embraces presence and stillness may not be as big as we think.  Because the best example I have of JUST BEING is my children themselves.  This is their natural state and perhaps our job is more to preserve it than teach it anew.  When I’m rushing to get Thomas to his Mainly Music session and he’s insisting on getting out of the car by himself (so slow!) then discovers the puddle in the gutter, begging to be splashed in, he’s enjoying what’s happening now, not thinking about the time on the clock.
One morning recently, when he was supposed to be getting dressed for school, Jake asked me to watch him “dive” off the sofa into the “sea” to go “scuba diving”.  I took the time to watch his enactment, made an affirming remark and went back to filling the lunchboxes in the kitchen.  A few minutes later, I realised it had gone very quiet out there in the lounge.  Suspicious, I went in to see what was going on.  Jake was still lying on the floor where I had left him.  Knowing he’s been feeling tired since starting school, I said “are you feeling OK, Jake?”  His reply was, “Yes, I’m just sinking”.  It took me a moment to realise that his role play hadn’t finished and he was imagining that he was sinking deeper & deeper into the ocean.  I had been intending to tell him to keep moving, we needed to get to school, but, instead, I left him to it.  For a few minutes, he had disconnected from the busyness of the morning to be present with his creativity & dreams.  My heart sang (and we still got to school on time).

 

STILL WONDERING…

  • Are there any spiritual practices for stillness that I could teach my boys now, suitable for their age?
  • How can I encourage presence in the moment as they get older and their minds are more likely to distract them?
  • How can I put more stillness and presence in my own day as an example to my children and for myself?

 

Much love to you and your little souls,

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