They say it takes a village to raise a child, yet our village is very disconnected and often judgmental. We set up camp in an opinion and judge others if they do not agree with us. Hot topics in parenting are sleep training, work vs, stay at home, vaccinations, free range vs. helicopter, social media use, and the list goes on and on.
Everyone is a perfect parent until they become one. Parenting is hard work. Especially, today when parents are expected to work longer hours and yet be more involved in the raising of our children. Studies show that fathers and mothers spend significantly more hours with their children now than in the past. Most parents are trying very hard to provide the ideal life for their family, yet we hear so often about problems in families. Depression, disconnect, behavior concerns in children, entitlement. We have become overwhelmed with ensuring our children succeed and in doing so have taken away independence, risk, free time, and responsibility. These concerns in turn have resulted in children who are less able to navigate the world on their own, problem solve, think creatively, and lack resiliently to tackle daily struggles. Parents are frightened that if their child does not participate in sports, scouts, music and art lessons, tutoring, and more they will fall behind and not be successful. Ironically, it is being found that this push and frenzy for enrichment has created a new set of issues. Research is finding that a slower, less structured life has long lasting benefits for everyone. Children have time to build relationships with other children when engaged in free, child-directed play. They learn empathy, sharing, kindness, creativity, problem solving, and risk assessment when given time and freedom to experience the world around them. For parents, this recommended shift is frightening. “My child could get hurt. I don’t know those kids, parents, etc… It’s not safe.” Are common concerns. Even if you are an attentive, excellent parent, accidents happen. You do your best to prevent them, but not allowing your children freedom to play and develop is not a positive solution. Free time will also help prevent burnout in scheduled activities and after school meltdowns. Children and parents will notice an improvement in attitude when down time is more available.
I would like to suggest that we all take time to say hello to a new person this week. Compliment a stranger. Put the phone down in the elevator and start a conversation instead. Invite a neighbor over for dinner or take a treat over to them. Call, not text, a friend. Take away the phone, iPad, TV and eat dinner as a family without distractions. Take a couple minutes each day to sit and talk face-to-face with your child and spouse. Give them a hug, make eye contact, and listen actively to what they have to say. Plan time each week to take a walk, recharge, connect, and be still.
Parenting should be less of a competition and more of a community. Judge less, rush less, worry less. Instead, play more, connect more, enjoy more, be present more, and laugh more!