by Kelly Villaruel
Parenting has many challenges in the best of times, but it can be doubly challenging in current times with the interruption of our regular schedules and routines. We may find ourselves more tired than usual and with that, maybe giving in to children’s wants where we would normally hold firm, or we may find ourselves getting irritated or even angry. Where we may have been able to sneak a couple of hours alone just a couple of weeks ago, those moments are harder to come by these days and that can add to the exhaustion we may already feel as parents. However, there are some things we can do to lower the stress level, maintain connections with our children, bring greater ease into the home, and maybe even a bit of tranquility.
Creating a rhythm in the home, or adding to an existing rhythm can help to ease the transitions, and essentially, lighten our loads. Rhythm is different from a schedule. A schedule tends to be rigid whereas a rhythm is much more fluid. When we speak of a daily rhythm, we can imagine breathing in and breathing out. Our breath follows a rhythm not a schedule. The seasons follow a rhythm, and really, all of nature follows a rhythm. There is a flow to the way the natural world moves. We can bring that ease of flow into our homes and in doing that, we create anchor points or points of connection in the day that our children come to count on and it also gives us reset points when things might feel like they are falling apart in little or big ways (because isn’t that the nature of parenting?)
In breath refers to the times of day when we come together in a predictable way such as meals, stories and singing together. It speaks to the times that we are present with each other. This is a time when your children “have your attention” and they really feel that presence. Our breath refers to the times where, after being with us and having our attention, our children go do something else, and we can focus on other things without guilt. When we create those “in breaths” of coming together in our day, it is so much easier to tell our children that we have other work to do and they can play on their own. And they most often do it willingly because they had our attention and they know they will have it again.
Children feel safe and held when there is a rhythmic predictability to their days. It helps to calm them, as unpredictability can cause anxiety in the young child and in turn trigger some challenging behaviours. So, where in your day does a rhythm already exist? When my children were little, our morning rhythm looked something like this:
- Waking up and sitting together on the couch (in breath)
- They went off to play while I made breakfast (out breath)
- Breakfast together with song to create ritual (in breath)
- Children coloring, playing or…? (out breath)
- Snack and tea time with song (in breath)
It was similar for the rest of the day to bedtime. When we came together, they had my attention, and when they did their thing, I did mine. The beauty of a rhythm is that timing can be a little flexible in that some days children may sleep in while other days they may get up at the crack of dawn but the rhythm is the same. If we have to run errands or any number of other things that may interrupt the rhythm, we know that the next anchor point is coming and we reconnect and reset. It does take some practice to make it a habit or pattern but with time the flow will come. It’s a fairly simple idea, to create a rhythm in your home. That said, simple DOES NOT mean that it’s easy. So, please, be gentle with yourself. Parenting is hard already and this whole scenario is new, none of us have done it this way before, so we have to learn as we go.