How Can We Teach Our Kids to Take Care of Themselves? Teach Them to Take Downtime


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When we fill in every empty hour with an activity, we forget to teach our kids the most essential part of being a healthy adult: balance. What to do? Teach them how to take some downtime.

Fun with my sister
My girls and I are not the kind of go, go, go people who can swing from activity to activity for days and weeks and months without some serious lazy time layered in.  Strip away our requisite downtime and you have three very ugly creatures. I turn porcelain and shatter into 10 billion jagged shards at the smallest obstacle. And the kids start eating each other.

Sometimes we just need to veg. It’s not a positive or a negative. It’s just who we are.

Still, I have to constantly remind myself that it’s an OK way to be. Being us is no better or worse than being can’t-stop, hard-driven, always-on-the-go “A” types. It’s just a different way of being. I know this. So why does it feel like a personal, moral shortfall to need downtime?

“Slow” is not a virtue in our culture.  We wear “busy” as a badge of honor (even while we struggle to reign in our sprawling schedules). We want bigger, better, faster, more.  We’re caught up in our first world problems, marinating in mama guilt.

If we’re doing nothing, we’re obviously not doing enough. But, it’s OK because the truth is, nothing is ever enough.

Between my two girls, we’ve done swim team, soccer and softball, gymnastics classes, guitar, piano, circus, ceramics, dance and drama. But what if that Tai Kwon Do class I never got around to signing them up for would have been the life changer?

Oh, please. We need to get out from under this perfect parent syndrome.

Most of our kids are going to be fine. They have decades and decades and decades ahead of them to explore their interests and find the things that light them up. Maybe you will introduce them to those things, but probably not.

If you have the time to read this, and to agonize about whether or not your kid is doing enough to keep up with Jones’ kids, the answer is yes. Yes she is.

Our kids have their lifetimes to discover their loves. And to be overbooked.

When we fill in every empty hour with an activity, we forget to teach them the most essential part of being a healthy adult: balance.

I want my daughters to grow into women who prioritize caring for themselves. When they are sick, I want them to lie on the couch and eat ice pops and watch movies all day. When they are tired, I want them to rest. When they are overcommitted, I want them to find the thing that most burdens them and quit. Yes, I said quit.

My kids are doing enough. And so are yours. Not signing them up for chess club will not destroy their chances of getting into a good college.

I give us all permission to stop beating ourselves up over this question.

I give us all permission to be whoever we are — and to be OK with it.

Recommended Reading:

Psychology Today – Over Scheduling Kids

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More from Holly Goodman

How to Connect with Your Older Kids Through Books

Kids and Chores: To Pay or Not to Pay/a>

On Kids’ and Independence: Are We Parenting to Our Kids’ Past Instead of Our Present?

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