Why Slow Parenting Is a Perfect Way to Reduce Anxiety?
I looked at my calendar and felt like I was going to cry. Every single weekday was booked solid – me at work, the kids at school, and at least one afterschool activity (gymnastics, soccer, tutoring, sometimes all three!) before going home to a rushed dinner and bedtime, just to get up and do it all over again the next day. Just looking at the schedule made me anxious.
And if all of the running around felt hectic and stressful to me, how was it feeling for my kids? They were coming home exhausted, wolfing down dinner, and sleeping. It seemed like they had no downtime, no free play, and no time to connect with me or each other. Was this really what I wanted their childhood to look like?
My family is not the only one struggling to balance a busy schedule and a restive home life. Many of us are pressed into enrolling our kids in endless extra-curricular activities in the hopes of developing their athleticism, grit, and social skills. But we also know that children who feel a sense of family security are less likely to struggle with issues like bullying, isolation, anxiety, and depression.
So, are families spending enough time together, and feeling connected enough, to create that security?
It might surprise you to know that, according to research from The Journal of Marriage and Data that came out before the coronavirus pandemic, “there has been a clear increase in the number of time parents spend with their children over the last 50 years. This is true for both fathers and mothers, and holds across almost all education groups and countries.” So, most parents are actually spending more time in general with their children than their own parents spent with them.
However, that doesn’t necessarily mean that parents are getting more quality time with their children. Anecdotally, many of my parent friends report feeling that the stress of an overly busy schedule and too much work to do interferes with their ability to be present and active with their kids. And the busy family schedule doesn’t just impede parent wellbeing, but childrens’ wellbeing too. Being too busy to focus on our kids reduces family security and can drain the all-important parent-child bond.
So how can we as parents counter the busy, stressful schedule and put our family’s well-being first?
We need a parenting style that is slow, calm, and mindful, and that prioritizes quality time and reduced stress over the temptation to pack as many varied activities as we can into the schedule. We need slow parenting.
Slow parenting is “a parenting style where parents consciously choose to take the pressure off their children and let them explore the world on their own terms. It allows for everyone to be present and focus on family time without a calendar full of scheduled activities,” says Sharon Brandwein, an advocate for this style of parenting. “Our style loosely translates to fewer activities, fewer sports, and fewer hard time hacks. It also means spending more time together as a family.”
Like Sharon, I’ve now adopted a slow parenting mindset with my family. We still have a couple of activities on the calendar, but we’ve decided to drop many as well, and to make sure that all of us have more unstructured, unscheduled time to rest, play, talk, and grow together.
Nowadays, each of us has space to think, decompress, breathe, and process what’s going on. I’ve found that my kids do better overall when they’re not overscheduled and are not constantly entertained.
They can explore the world at their own pace.
Our family is more connected and bonded now, too. Over the years, I’ve found that if I can create more space for everything overall, then I have room for more authentic, smaller connections with my spouse and kids throughout the day. Day by day and week by week, these little interactions build into a stronger relationship between my children and me.
I’m convinced that our strengthened parent-child bonds will allow us to end up with children who will talk to us when they have problems, who will be more willing to come to us with any issues, and who we’ll be able to guide through adolescence with a foundation of mutual trust, built by the slow parenting style.
After a couple of years of living this way, I can’t imagine going back. Parenting is joyful and easy in a way it never has been before. Our family is collaborative, creative, and fun. And the stress and anxiety I remember from before seem like a far-off nightmare. If you are overwhelmed and overscheduled, I urge you to give slow parenting a try.
Want to learn more about slow parenting?
- Check out my podcast episode all about how slow parenting can support slow processing.
- Read In Praise Of Slowness: Challenging The Cult Of Speed by Carl Honore, who coined the term “slow parenting”
Bio: Danielle Sullivan (she/they) is an autistic neurodiversity advocate, parent coach, life coach, and host of the Neurodiverging Podcast. Her mission is to further disability awareness. And social justice efforts to improve all of our lives as part of the larger world community. She offers parent and life coaching services for individuals and families. Learn more at http://neurodiverging.com/life-coaching today. Questions, comments, suggestions? Email Danielle at email@example.com.