We all do best when our lives move around an established daily routine or schedule. In schools inspired by Waldorf principles, teachers strive for a daily routine, called a rhythm. The following is an overview of key elements along with suggestions for establishing a simple and natural home rhythm.
Within the "rhythm", adults and children go through alternate periods of concentration and expansion, similar to the act of inhaling and exhaling one's breath. In the inhaling or breathing-in phase, the child or adult directs his/her attention to an activity that requires an inward focus. Examples of this might be finger knitting, painting, eating, etc. These inward periods are typically very short in young children and gradually become longer as the child grows. Conversely, in the exhaling or breathing-out period, the child or adult connects with the outside world. Examples of this include recess, group games, conversations, and shared experiences.
Predictability and opportunities for inward and outward moments create a gentle rhythm at home and at school and provide structure for our daily, weekly and seasonal lives. Along with this, daily (i.e., sleep, eat, songs), weekly (i.e., school, chores), and seasonal (i.e., holidays, gardening) anchors help form a secure structure.
Kim John Payne, author of Simplicity Parenting, has the following suggestions for those wishing to simplify their families' or children's lives.
1. Simplify the environment or T.M.S. ("Trash More Stuff") - It is hard to make the day flow when we have so much stuff that we can't doing anything until we move that stuff!
2. Simplify the rhythm with predictability and boundaries - One example is to keep meals and bedtimes at similar times each day--even during vacations and holidays. You can enlist help--if Grandma is visiting, rather than letting children stay up late, bring her into the rhythm. Ask her to tell the bedtime story or help with the bath.
3. Simplify the Schedules or S.H.M. ("Stay Home More") - The mere act of staying home more can ease stress and tension in family lives.
4. Filter out the adult world - For children, Payne suggests removing television, computer games, videos, media/commercialization, and adult conversation from a child's life. This can be introduced later in a child's life (around 9, 10 or 11-years-of age). By removing these instrusions, Payne notes that a child is free to wonder and wander in the natural world without the anxiety or worry that can result from too much "adult" influence. For adults, Payne recommends limiting and removing radio, television, time on the computer and media/commericialization.
Other ways to simplify daily lives:
- Make a plan for meals for the week- Some families like to assign a regular food to each day (i.e., Monday-oatmeal for breakfast and Italian food for dinner). For consistency and ease, many families may opt to follow a color of the day and a grain of the day .
- A candle in the center of a table pulls the family in, gathers their focus, and helps everyone be present in the moment. It also creates a soft and gentle mood.
- A blessing or poem, or a moment of silence allows families to expresss gratitude for the food, the people who make the food possible, and for a sense of appreciation for the world.
- Consistent bedtimes support good health and a sense of well-being. An over-tired child (or adult) may not fall asleep easily and may not sleep soundly because of stress.
- Everyone has a natural circadian rhythm with day and night, light and dark. The brain tells the body to suppress the release of melatonin when we are exposed to sunlight. This can interfere with mood and rest.
- Complete darkness supports sleep.
- Develop a peaceful transition to rest and sleep. About two hours before bedtime, begin quieting the house and mind. Tell the child what is going to happen.
- Encourage adequate movement and play during the day so that the body and mind are tired and ready for sleep.
- Avoid stimulation-- If you can't get rid of them completely, turn off the television and internet several hours before bedtime.
- Be "dull" when it's time to rest- Children are open and ready to engage in the world-- be dull, so that you won't excite them. If they can't sleep, do not pull out the craft basket!
- It's okay to say, "Go to sleep now." Sometimes children just need to hear those words from the adults in their lives.
- Develop a friendship with sleep and rest. Adults may want to revisit their sleep habits and ensure they don't skimp on sleep at the expense of trying to get things done.
Many thanks to Korrin Rogers for providing these suggestions as part of SCCS's parent education program. The education/wellness committee will hold regular parent education workshops throughout the year.
For more information, please email firstname.lastname@example.org and put attention to the chairs of the education/wellness committee.