If the pandemic has taught parents one thing, it’s that we must stop programming our children too much
So, Freedom Day, the home stretch on the long way out of the lockdown, has been postponed. But amid the disappointment of large weddings and unrestricted gatherings, let’s count our blessings: many aspects of our daily existence are already back on the menu.
Our family and social life have started a lot again, especially compared to what they looked like a few months ago. Children not only go to school, but participate in team sports, swimming lessons, theater groups and art lessons, many of which are operational again. Our calendars are filling up and mum and dad’s taxi service is back in full swing.
In recent years, there has been a growing discussion about whether some kids are doing too much, with – for some – an activity every night and more on the weekends. For many families, before Covid, this was simply the norm.
Recently, the Boy Scout Association reported that its membership had dropped to wartime levels due to the pandemic. While sad, could this be a symptom of a larger trend? After a year without access to clubs, lessons and sports, have parents seen how a slower, less busy weekly schedule can make the family happier?
Last year we had no choice but to find out how life didn’t need to be filled with extracurricular activities. I saw with my own eyes how much simpler forms of entertainment occupied my children – William, seven, and James, five.
With their usual sports and swimming off the table, make-up games, Lego, building a train and, let’s face it, a good chunk of screen time allowed them to recharge and also allowed my husband, Chris and I, to relax more than shopping at the gyms and watch shops.
It wasn’t until it all stopped that many parents like me began to see that our kids actually enjoyed the time at home. That after a week of learning – whether in the classroom or at the kitchen table – our children were tired and needed to relax, not cram in the car with sports equipment or an instrument. of music.
Looking back, we can look back and wonder why so many of those extra engagements seemed like such a good idea. Psychologist Dr Angharad Rudkin, co-author of What’s My Child Thinking ?, explains that parental peer pressure has a role to play.
“Extracurricular activities are a big industry and there are a lot of great things to do, but did we really listen to our kids on what they wanted to do? Or did we think “they should do it” and sign them?
“A lot of parents got caught up in a cycle thinking that because these lessons – rugby or science or whatever – were being offered, their kids should take them. The worry is that your child is missing something if they don’t.
When our busy schedules came to a screeching halt in March 2020, the daily reality of charging to drop children off for activities was lacking, but – most importantly – not much.
Dr Rudkin explains how we collectively slowed down: “The lockdown gave us permission to be together as a family and made most families understand that they were just fine at home. It also gave us permission to say that the kids are fine without doing six after-school clubs each week, and life is pretty good when you don’t have dinner on the hoof.
Personally, I was a much less stressed mom with no extracurricular classes to take care of, which I realize as society is opening up again.
Dr Rudkin reminds us that filling every available minute does not promote relaxation: “During confinements, we found that the children were bored and most would find something to do. It gave parents the confidence to live a little colder life.
“The excessive hours of children create stress. You have to be in certain places at times, but we know kids are the most creative and relaxed in many ways when they have room to play. When they are so bored that they go get a pen and paper and draw.
A lot of parents I know don’t want to start over filling each afternoon with a different activity. Emma, who has two daughters, says, “I was that mom who got babies into messy playgroups and toddlers every day of the week. After my daughters started school, I wanted to drive to gymnastics and cooking classes. When Covid abruptly ended all of these things, it was a disgrace at first. “
Like many other parents, Emma soon began to enjoy a more relaxed pace: “I felt less stressed. Now I’m very picky about what we sign up for. I don’t run to join groups of people. The girls have swimming and a piano lesson – we do half of what we used to do and it’s so nice not to rush after school.
I try to balance the interests of my sons with a more streamlined schedule. They both have a weekly swim lesson and my oldest enjoys a junior golf academy hour on a Saturday. There is a temptation to fit in more, but with so much time wasted with family and friends, I don’t want our weekends to be filled with commitments.
It remains to be seen if this byproduct of locked up life will stick around, although with the postponement of Freedom Day it should save parents like me a bit more time.
And as Dr Rudkin attests, parents are not asking for family life to resume such a sustained rhythm: “The more I talk to parents, the more they tell me that it is a relief not to have any more schedules.” also loaded. It really opened my eyes.