SIMPLICITY PARENTING by Kim John Payne M.ED with Lisa M. Ross
I just finished reading a book about simplifying childhood. I bought it about a year ago and hadn’t got around to reading it until a couple of months ago. It made good reading while I did the 10 hour flight to the UK over the summer! But the book really resonated with me, perhaps because as life gets faster, my desire to slow things down becomes stronger.
It talks about children and anxiety, and also children with the other labeled diagnosis such as ADD, OCD, ADHD, etc and how our children are bombarded with information in all areas, often inappropriate for their age and outside of their understanding; issues such as global warming, politics and earthquakes and how these things, along with over scheduling, lack of unstructured play particularly outside, and how there is “too much” is causing the same symptoms over time as children suffering with PTSD. He has coined this phrase CSR- cumulative stress reaction which is a “reaction to a pattern of small stresses, a sort of consistent threshold of stress that may build but rarely dissipates”
His concern about children having too much too young, is one that I and I know many other parents are concerned about. I like how he describes how we quickly find a new “normal”:
“We are building our daily lives, and our families, on the four pillars of too much: too much stuff, too many choices, too much information and too much speed. With this level of busyness, distractions, time pressure and clutter (mental and physical) children are robbed of the time and ease they need to explore their worlds and their emerging selves. And since the pressures of “too much” are so universal, we are “adjusting” at a commensurately fast pace. The weirdness of “too much” begins to seem normal. If the water we are swimming in continues to heat up, and we simply adjust as it heats, how will we know to hop out before we boil?”
Do you know kids who have so much stuff that you can hardly see the floor of their room? Too many toys, clothes, books. As an adult, I feel the pressure of having too much stuff. It's stifling! But having too many "things" can cause stress for children too. More of a good thing is not always better. And how about the kids who, even if by their own design are busy with this practice and that play date. (When I was a kid, I don't remember play dates. I remember being send outside to play, and would knock on the neighbouring kids doors to see if they wanted to play, and when we did, it was free play, we decided what we did and how it went. Sometimes no one was coming out to play and I'd be bored. But there's a lot to be said about boredom and creativity, and that could be the subject of another blog.... ) Although our kids need regular rhythm and consistency in their lives, within that grounding and reassuring framework they need time for just "being". Over scheduled kids, like adults accumulate stress.
In the book Payne and Ross talk about the need for rhythm and ritual. Kids like the same thing over and over. It gives them a great sense of security. They feel safe knowing that there's certain things in life that you can count on. Just like having routines around bedtime makes it easier for kids to sleep, having regular routines in life help a child to feel more in control. When I ran the daycare, we'd have many rhythms and rituals and the kids would remind me if I forgot to do something the way it always got done. We would always come in from outside, take of our outdoor clothes, wash our hands and sit at the table for lunch. We would always eat our veggies first at lunch time, we always had songs and stories before bed. Just little things that provided a sense of what was expected and what came next.
How many kids do you know, who regularly suffer from stomach aches, not wanting to go anywhere, especially school or structured events or who have a great need to control their environment? Chances are they are suffering from overwhelm. They have what Payne calls a Soul Fever. Just like when we have a normal fever, we, and our bodies instinctively know what’s best: we rest, stay home, eat easily digested food, nurture ourselves. When our soul has a fever, when our children are so overwhelmed that they are showing symptoms of CSR, we should look at doing the same for the soul as the body. Slow down and listen to what is needed. Some kids are weathering our new “normal” better than others, but our Paleolithic bodies are starting to rebel. Payne does have some great ideas to scaling down, un-cluttering and scheduling time to be rather than do. I feel inspired to un-clutter my house, simplify my life, worry less about things and un-clutter the mind! It’s a good read, written with heart and with the knowledge that you know your child best, so helps you to develop or redevelop your instincts and if you have an anxious child, maybe there are some things in this book that could help you to bring back a more normal level of normal.
Hayley Hughes is a mother, early childhood educator, childbirth and postnatal doula and holistic nutritionist. Bringing together all these interests and skills she offers you her observations and musings on motherhood and all that goes with it.