“Doing nothing?”….. this might leave a lot of you puzzled and perplexed. After all, what’s the skill behind this? Isn’t it too easy?! Or may be, isn’t it such a waste of time!?
Well, ask yourself. How many times have you felt the need to pause or just simply take a breather?Think about how you feel when you are stressed and pulled in too many directions. Today’s always-connected, overly-aware and crazily busy lifestyle is adding stress to our lives. We need to recognise that the world we live in is stressful. And when it comes to children, the impact rises exponentially.
Stress Management for Children
Children absolutely feel stress too. The hurried, future-oriented life steered towards specific outcomes or goals leaves our children with no natural opportunities of relaxation. They are so busy working towards accomplishing targets, grades & results that they are left with no opportunities to waste time doing nothing. With a tightly packed schedule, children are on a constant ‘go’ all the time leading to rising stress levels. And because of their inability to recognise the tipping point of stress levels as well as the ‘need’ for a break to calm themselves, children resort to external factors for stress management – like television, computer games, smart phones, social media etc.
Stress on children can have behavioural (difficulty in focusing), social (lashing out physically or verbally), physical (weakened immune system, difficulty sleeping) and emotional (feeling lonely, anxious and burned out) effects. Plus when you’re stressed, you are not nearly as happy!
But hey, as Parents are we not doing anything & everything just to keep our kids happy?
Why is Downtime or “Doing nothing” essential for children?
There is a myth that doing nothing is wasting time, when it’s actually extremely productive and essential. During empty hours, kids explore the world at their own pace, develop their own unique set of interests and indulge in the sort of fantasy play that will help them figure out how to create their own happiness, handle problems with others on their own, and sensibly manage their own time. That’s a critical life skill that needs to be nurtured by parents from the beginning.
Here are a few tips on how you can gift your child the skill of doing nothing-
- Be a role model- As with other skills that you teach child, modelling the behaviour yourself is the fastest & most effective ways to show then what to do. Parents, being a child’s first teachers, leave a deep impact on the perception they develop about life and priorities. If they see you prioritise downtime or unstructured time, they will too.
- Show them that you are comfortable doing nothing. Don’t think of clearing the mess in house or fidgeting with anything around for some time.
- Carve out time to turn off your cell phone, stop checking your email, and just hang out, without lamenting that you “should” be doing something instead of “wasting time.”
- Schedule unstructured family time occasionally, say on weekends, and spend time together doing nothing, even if that means spending all day just lazing around.
- Add moments of laughter & humour in your family-time….that’s a tried & tested formula for stress management!
- Structure their day with a steady mix of high-impact and low-impact activities like free-play
- As soon as your child comes home from school, give them a snack and let them go play outside for 30 minutes. Kids need to burn off energy, allowing them to focus when it’s time for them to do their homework.
- Encourage your child to take a “do-nothing” 5-minutes break before starting with homework.
- Go back to Basics
- Gift them Board games like Chess, Carrom, Snakes & Ladders- They help slow the pace of life and are refreshing for the mind & body and indeed perfect for stress management for children. Also, Kids need to continue developing social skills. Board games promote that.
- Play dough & Kinetic sand are wonderful mediums for stress management in children as well.
- Define television viewing, tablet or mobile phone usage limits.
- Make a “Tech Detox” Charter and mutually decide on its inclusions and exclusions. Paste it in a common living room to incorporate that as part of your daily life. Of course this won’t be easy!
- Eliminate, limit, or refuse to buy more high-tech gear such as video and computer games.
- Give them opportunity (& space) to De-Stress
- Create a corner in your house, preferably next to a window, where your child can sit and simply look out.
- Add a few paintings, on rotational basis, of sceneries, nature etc which the child can observe.
- Fill the corner with art supplies, musical instruments, CDs, a deck of cards. Music, specially “white noise” is an excellent relaxation tool. Consider playing such music at home occasionally so that children get used to the sound. Try & play it when children are able to focus on it and not consider it just a background sound.
- Introduce your child to Meditation & Yoga
- Make your initial attempts very brief- start by asking them to sit for 3 minutes imagining themselves in their favourite park or beach.
- Slowly introduce basic Yoga poses that are beneficial for their body & mind.
Also read “Simple Yoga poses for kids and their benefits“
- Read aloud – Reading aloud has been found to slow the pace and enhances child’s listening skills.
- Create a bedtime routine that includes at least 15 minutes of calm, soothing activities such as reading together or chatting.
Also read ” Must have books for 4 year old“
- Add Downtime to your child’s busy day
Children have so many excellent after-school activities and extra curricular options these days- Arts, Sports, Music clubs etc- and probably your child would want to participate in all. But as you look at their schedules, see if they also have designated time slots to do nothing. If Downtime is made an expected part of their day, it’s easier for children to appreciate stillness and make it a priority.
These are just a few of of the ways to slow down an otherwise fast paced competitive life that our children are leading nowadays.
What has been your mantra? Do share in comments below.