As the new year begins, it is only natural for people to stop and take stock of their lives and habits as they reflect on priorities, use of time and accomplishments.
People take a look at what they have done and accumulated over the past year, and many resolve to make changes going forward and perhaps begin a process of decluttering in their lives. If we tweak a little here and cull a little there, we tell ourselves, we will see big changes in the year ahead.
As parents, you may stop and reflect on your children’s progress and development. In an interesting juxtaposition of circumstances, this introspection largely occurs at the tail end of the holidays when families have been out of their regular routines, cooped up and living out the consequences of the season of gift giving, junk-food eating, and media indulgence.
Is it possible to make clear-headed decisions regarding future goals and habits during this haze of holiday cheer? Are people doomed to set unrealistic goals for both themselves and their children that are sure to fail before the end of January?
You may feel as though you’d like to throw away every plastic toy in the house as it can seem easier than cleaning and organizing the mess you are currently confronted with. You might want to enroll your children in every class and sport imaginable if only to keep them occupied and active. Some of you may even wish to send your children to programs resembling obedience training and yourselves to parenting classes!
However enjoyable (or stressful) the holidays might be, it is a good idea to keep in mind that the current reality as the New Year dawns is not permanent. Routines will resume. Bedtimes can be reinstated. Eventually, the house may be cleaned and restored to its usual state.
Someday, you will be able to take a deep breath and sit down alone in a quiet place with a steaming mug of your preferred drink in hand. This future moment of solitude, perhaps a week or two into the New Year when life has resumed its regular rhythm, will be an ideal time to re-evaluate your child-rearing practices and family priorities.
This year, instead of adding to the ever-increasing burden of things you should be doing as parents, consider reducing your work and guilt loads. It seems that articles and books are published on a daily basis telling parents how busy life has become and how stressed families are. Research shows that anxiety and pressure can lead to depression and disease and that children may reap long term health consequences as result of persistent negative early life experiences.
These doom and gloom pieces cause increased worry, but all too often, families continue on as before without making any significant changes to their routines and family habits.
Declutter Your Child Rearing Practices
This New Year, as you finally take some time for solitude and reflection, ask yourself what you can eliminate. Look at your family schedule. Evaluate your routines. Prioritize your children’s activities and the formal instruction in which they are enrolled. Take out an imaginary red pen and start slashing. Picture yourself cutting out one activity (or more) for each family member. Deliberately set aside a half day (or more) of each weekend to consciously block out time for nothing. Start small. Incorporate incremental changes instead of going for a drastic overhaul.
As you think about how you can simplify your family’s schedule, ask yourself how you can simplify your child rearing practices. We often think of decluttering as having to do with stuff. Perhaps we can expand its definition as we consider ways to declutter our child rearing practices.
How you can declutter the following areas for your children and yourself:
Less can be more when you make subtle changes to your daily to-do lists that might include:
Make eye-contact with your child.
Get down on the floor and play with your child for five minutes.
Give your child 30 minutes of outdoor free time after school.
Turn off the TV and play music instead.
What ideas come to your mind as you consider decluttering your child rearing practices and doing more with less? Add your ideas to the list started above by posting them in the comments.
A previous version of this article was originally posted on the Nurturance Blog.