Take a moment to remember the dreams you had for your family before you had kids. Many of us today could use some practical tools to help us “reset” our current lives, so we can realize those dreams. Some of these tools also can help to create stronger family connections, to reduce the clutter of our homes and to raise resilient, creative children with strong problem solving skills.
Simplicity parenting and mindful parenting are two parenting approaches that offer the opportunity to reset. There are several resources on the Eastside to support families who are ready to make some changes.
Simplicity Parenting is a movement created by Kim John Payne, M.Ed., which offers a path for parents to simplify home life, which reduces stress in children and their parents and creates room for real connection and creativity. Payne created the approach after supporting children in war zones all over the world and recognizing that the signs of stress he saw in children in refugee camps, he was seeing in Western children. He called it the “undeclared war on childhood.” In response, Payne wrote his book "Simplicity Parenting," which is now used as the text for study groups around the country.
Payne emphasizes that his suggestions are achievable and based on child brain development research. The steps Payne encourages families to take are simplifying the home environment, creating a predictable rhythm to the family’s day, reducing over-scheduling and unplugging the child from excessive use of screens.
For parents who think this approach of “less is more” might help their families, there is a workshop for parents of kids of all ages with Simplicity Parenting educator Judy Erbe that, which starts at 7 p.m. Wednesday Sept. 21 at in Bellevue. The suggested donation is $10.
Erbe will present an overview of the program and invite Eastside parents to register for a series of seven upcoming Wednesday night meetings this fall, which will use the book "Simplicity Parenting" as its text. Parents with questions or who would like to register but can’t make the first meeting, can email Erbe at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Mindful parenting is another approach, though it is very compatible with simplicity parenting. Mindful parenting emphasizes giving kids what they really need at each development stage and creating enduring family connections. Patti Pitcher, of Snoqualmie, is a mother of four children ranging from ages 16 to 30, a parenting coach and the co-author with Ann Ruethling of "Under the Chinaberry Tree: Books and Inspirations for Mindful Parenting."
Pitcher said mindful parenting is the process that you go through to unwind all the unconscious patterns that come from your childhood.
"Rather than just repeat what was done to you, you consciously choose your own parenting style." Pitcher said.
Parents become more mindful by becoming very conscious of their own emotional reactions. When you react to your child in anger, reflect on why that made you so angry.
"Take time later, away from the situation and tune into yourself. Ask yourself what was really going on," she said.
That anger often is actually triggered from a very "specific place in yourself where you are hurt," she said.
If you become conscious in this way, you heal and don't have to pass on that trigger to your kids, she said.
"My parenting is a way of being. When my kids were little I had a challenging job, busy husband and the mindfulness came from within me," she said, and not from the "outside."
Pitcher makes several suggestions for lowering the family stress level.
“Start simply. Try eating dinner together," she said. "I read an interesting study of Rhodes Scholars and the only thing that they had in common is that their family always ate dinner together.”
Children she says, “need balance and structure. Parents get sucked into the culture of 'more is better' which leaves little time for kids to experience childhood."
It is OK to limit activities says Pitcher.
"Let them pick one sport and one instrument and then listen and if he or she says, 'I really want to do art' - don't add that on top but let it replace something they really don't want to do any more."
Pitcher and her husband also consciously limited their children’s screen time. In the long run, kids that are hooked on electronics, computers and TV “have way fewer skills and coping, knowing how to play, social skills, give and take," Pitcher said.
People learn those skills when dealing with another person.
When you raise your kids without excessive screen time “you end up with way more interesting people. Our kids got into every college they applied to including Stanford,” she said.
Pitcher said that making those changes will be challenging at first.
"The first month will be really, really hard. Prepare ahead of time. Have activities tucked away. Don’t choose to make a major change in an already stressful time. Think about when will be the best time. Perhaps consider making national 'Turn off the TV Week' into a month,” she said.
“Once you’ve done it for a month, kids will disengage. But parents must stop it too. You have to show them how fun life can be,” she said.
“People are exhausted and stressed. It is tempting to take the easy way, but trust me it is only easy in the short run, but not in the long run.”
Parents who are interested in engaging Pitcher as a parenting coach, can contact her at email@example.com. And unplugged play and learning in a rich environment is available on the eastside at the The Outdoor Preschool in Redmond, at Three Cedars Waldorf School in Bellevue and at Summer Winds Day Camp in Snoqualmie.