It was going to be a chill Saturday until you glanced at your iPhone calendar and remembered: “Oh, sh**! Your toddler is scheduled for a baby birthday party at 11 a.m., swim class immediately after, followed by a playdate with a new friend Penelope.
Cue the rush.
But that’s the problem. While it can feel exhilarating (and productive) to cross a variety of social engagements off your to-do list, it’s overwhelming. And, before you know it, your brain is so preoccupied with logistics that you’re not only un-present, you’re missing the point of weekend family time, which is actually to just be together. Le sigh.
That’s where the slow parenting movement comes in.
What is slow parenting? Slow parenting is basically about learning how to stop the rush and prioritize quality over quantity when it comes to family time. In other words, it’s about making an effort to slow down versus always hurrying kids along from one activity to the next.
Give me an example. For starters, no more back-to-back birthday parties, swim classes and playdates. Or too many commitments where you don’t actually enjoy (or even notice) the time you’re spending together. An article in the Boston Globe describes slow parenting as taking the time to “…just watch [your] children whether they are playing, doing homework, or eating a snack. Take a moment to drink them in…because that pause alone, even if momentary, can drive a shift in pace.”
But how do you start? With slow parenting, it can be as simple as creating a few family rituals that *nothing* can get in the way of. For example, family breakfast every Sunday or regular after-work walks together to a nearby park. Or, even better, you could try scheduling a window of time to do nothing—aka time where you’re all under the same roof, but doing your own things such as reading, puttering or relaxing. (It goes without saying, but phones should be off.)
Here’s why this type of QT counts. Children and adults benefit immensely from built-in time to hang out together, unwind and be spontaneous. Without it, the risks are crankiness, moodiness or—worse—burnout. (Yes, kids are susceptible to this just as much as adults.) In fact, a fascinating study published in the Journal of School Health found that there’s a direct correlation between perceived levels of stress amongst family members and kids’ desire for more free time. Even more interesting, the research says that kids experience less activity-related stress when they plot out their schedules more carefully with their parents (aka they don’t over-commit).
PS: How great is a Saturday sans plans?