Following on from my post on how we fell into slow parenting, I thought I would follow it up with what we have found has worked for us in making our family unit flow better, and helped slow down our family life and how its enabled us to appreciate the simple things that bit more.
- Time- We try to add on extra time allowances now when factoring out our day allowing for getting stuff achieved in the house, travelling time and factoring extra time for being out and about. This means we can time manage our day better and not get home too late when we’re all hungry, tired and grumpy. This means we all have more time and thus slowing the pace down on all that we do by allowing extra time. Obviously there are lots of days this doesn’t work out and thats when reflecting comes into it.
- Reflecting- When we get parts of activities, celebrations and just day to day life right or wrong myself and my husband Dougie discuss what works and doesn’t work, and I make notes from it to use what we’ve reflected on to improve other days and activities. We obviously have plenty of days that don’t flow, we have several children that throw all sorts at us plus our own moods of the day, thats just life! There are some days that we can reflect on how we can repeat it better the next time.
- Outdoors life We have the mindset there is no such thing as bad wether only bad clothing! We get outside in all weathers and allow the kids to be dirty. We picnic even in the winter, all wrapped up with a thermos flask and sometimes warm food. Some of our best days out have been eating sheltered under trees in wet weather, or a nippy beach walk in the Christmas period. Being outdoors helps keep sibling arguments at bay and fresh air is so good for us adults and our mental well being.
- Safety – Children must be exposed to risks to understand safety, so we believe they should be risk aware not risk averse. For example climbing a tree – we allow them to climb a lot but we have instilled some basic advice to them on how to asses a climb. Top tip – teach them to visually measure branches; if it’s thicker than their wrist it should hold their weight, if it’s not it probably won’t! Their sense of achievement on completing something as simple as climbing a tree is so fulfilling to see. The more we have adopted this attitude the more laid back we have been with each child; it does help that our first born was a climber and was always wanting to try out anything!
- Good weekend balance- I don’t fill all our weekends with social engagements. We now tend to stick with one busy weekend a month, leaving us 3 to spend quality family time together and for catching up on jobs that are needed to run the household. So we find if we’re overwhelmed by a busy calendar we cut back and say ‘no’ to a few things as it just helps clear a busy mind and leaves us with much needed home time.
- Having family meals and sitting down at the table together, we even did this often when we only had one baby. We do enjoy a meal just as grown ups at least once a week for our own sanity and relationship, but the children need mealtimes to sit and discuss family matters or what they’ve been up to that day/week and any funny stories they may have forgotten to tell. Don’t get me wrong, we have mealtimes that are disruptive or fussy eaters that may drive us batty, but this is family life in the raw!
- Play – sounds silly as it’s obvious that children play, but not always do we allow time for them to simply play idependently without it being screen play. We let our kids play by themselves, with each other and with friends as much as possible. We may steer the play by getting out activities to aid their independent play. Their imaginations take over, they experience how to interact with each other and the independence to entertain themselves creates much needed space for us grown ups. We were able as children to just muck about in the garden with a ball, skipping rope, making rose petal perfume, sitting on top of a wall chatting or simply cycling around the street. We Let them do this to the extent that they’re safe in their surroundings.
- We no longer take on too many after school activities- We have been guilty of this in the past signing our children up for all sorts of clubs. We now focus on a couple of activities that suit our children and our routine. They do cubs and scouts as we feel it’s quite simply the best value club they can do and the team building and life skills with the social side of the cub scouting movement is just fantastic. Daisy then has a gymnastics class once a week as she just loves it, and Finlay tends to play football with school once a week. Lastly swimming lessons are a must – we feel as it’s an important life skill, Dougie also swims with Teddy whilst the bigger two have a lesson which means there isn’t the pressure to go family swimming all the time.We have scaled down their clubs as we were all finding it exhausting, costly and I was finding it overwhelming.
- Treats- We find that the more we give our children the more they expect so we tend to treat our children at Birthdays and Christmas and we certainly don’t over-buy or take them on expensive outings much, with 4 children that’s not an option to us anyway! We prefer to take them to places that are good value such as outdoor nature reserves and playgrounds and it’s up to them if they have their own money to spend in the gift shop if they wish. We allow them the odd reward treat for a good week/ milestone or for Daddy arriving home from being away and this is usually a small chocolate treat (love a Freddo!). Then we give them treats at holidays such as a small Easter gift or Halloween item and again these are usually amounting to under £15 for the four of them. We tend to give a book/ craft item or a few pound shop treats. My family give them enough treats throughout the year when they see them to allow us to not over-spoil them! For the older two they have to earn treats and pocket money by doing jobs and there are times when they slip and they simply don’t get anything or times when their eager to have spending money for upcoming events and they tend to be far more helpful! We find that once we slip into doing lots of expensive outings etc we slip back into a more busy minded faster pace of life again. I think that some aspects of commercialism don’t help a slower life.
- Patience- Recently we have watched and read up about how some generations of parenting were brought up in an age of instants and this got us thinking that we really don’t have to wait for much these days, deliveries come next day, tv shows downloaded in minutes etc. This resonated with us and got us thinking about how if we don’t have to wait for stuff today then we’re losing the art of patience somewhat. So we tend to not buy into the ‘latest’ thing straight away, so for example they save up for something patiently or we visit the kids am cinema, which is when the film has been out for a couple of months at the cinema and we pay a far cheaper rate for the film, then there seems to be more anticipation and appreciation.
I have really enjoyed writing my slow parenting blog posts but have also found them tricky to put across simply what it’s all about. I don’t want to sound like an expert by writing about our parenting style or even sound like I’m telling you this is how you should parent. It’s not my intention to suggest that this is the best way to parent. We all have different lifestyles, different family units, and we know what works for us. You may feel that you like some elements of slow parenting but not others, and so choose to take aspects of it into your home life, but for those who, like us, fall into a different pace of life or are seeking this pace I thought it only just to share with you what we are all about as parents and as a family unit.