Simplicity is not easily attainted in our fast paced modern world. For me, its the same struggle every spring. During the winter months I battle SAD (Seasonal affective disorder) and more frequent flare ups of my autoimmune issues. This means my energy dries up, the cold goes right through me and the extra work of bundling the kids up before exiting the house just feels as though it will take everything out of me to accomplish. So of course my normal priorities of being in nature with the kids, going out to socialize and limiting screen time die with the first frost. In winter I become a hibernating bear and as a result my good days are full of lots of reading, science projects, games and crafts. On my bad days? lots of screen time for the kids. There are a million things I’ve tried to keep healthy and energized during the colder months and a million things I’ve tried to keep the kids occupied without the use of screens and i’m sure a million thing I haven’t tried. But this post isn’t about how to thrive in winter as an unschooler, wildschooler, minimalist or whatever you are. That’s a post for another day, preferably when I have mastered it myself. This is for those of you who, like me, long for simpler times, children who don’t fear boredom and reap the benefits of creativity, wonder and focus which result from a mind empty of modern day distractions….but who struggle with children and self relying a little too much on those distractions already. how do you break free?
Every spring its the same, my energy and resolve return, the rain boots come out, the TV goes off and…THE KIDS REVOLT! “its too cold!” “its too wet!” “I’m tired!” “I’m bored” “can we watch something?” they whine over and over again on repeat. It’s enough to drive any person insane! And the more you repeat “no” the louder they whine and refuse to be interested or immersed in nature or the games you plan or the lessons you teach and the more you wonder if its really worth it. Take it from a mother who has been through this transitional process EVERY. YEAR…for the past 4 years. IT IS WORTH IT! not only is it worth it but it is totally doable, and here are my top 5 tips to unplugging your tech obsessed kids. These tips help me to stay motivated and manage the chaos as the kids transition every year.
- REMEMBER your why!
there are sooo many studies on why more outdoor time and less screen time is beneficial to a child’s emotional, physical, mental and spiritual health and educational development. whether you are trying to disconnect to help with behavioral issues or anxiety, to improve physical health or focus or if you hope to completely change your whole lifestyle you need to constantly remind yourself of these reasons. its so easy to forget your why when your patience has run dry and the children sound like broken records asking for the one thing you are trying to limit. read a study, article or book on the benefits of less screen time or more time in nature. join a wildschooling group online, watch a video on the subject if you are pressed for time. but do something to remind yourself WHY its a priority for you and your family.
- KNOW it gets easier
you are breaking addictions to screens, teaching new skills, forming new habits and routines and these are all things that get easier with time. the more consistent you are the quicker it will become just a normal part of your life. And I know, I just said the dreaded C and R words most unschoolers hate: Routine and Consistency. but the truth is kids need a little routine and consistency to thrive and the reality is those words don’t have to mean strict schedules and tons of rules! its just something you know to expect like seasons changing or the sun disappearing every night or the fact we need to eat daily. if you allow your kids tons of unstructured play everyday…that IS consistency, that IS routine. once kids expect it they stop fighting it.
- INVITE your kids to help you around the house
The benefits of boredom need time to take root. Children need to learn how to direct their focus and not be afraid of their own thoughts. Before they grow accustom to this they will feel at a loss for what to do with themselves and need gentle guidance at first. It can be tiring to have to plan activities when you already have so much to do besides. So instead of feeling obligated to have tons of fancy games and experiments planned for them every day invite them to join you in your everyday tasks. If your kids are young you will be surprised how excited they will be to help out. Letting them do things like fill the dryer with washed clothes, feed the pets, wipe the table, put their dishes in the sink etc. not only gives them something to do and teaches them how to contribute to family life, but it also fosters confidence as they learn to do things for themselves little by little and a sense of healthy pride when they are praised for completing tasks.
- BE a co-discoverer
its nice to be able to toss the kids in our fenced in back yard and watch them from the windows while I enjoy some peace and quiet inside but its also important that they see me immersed in nature with them at times. we need to lead by example. If I am willing to dig in the dirt and get dirty my naturally neat freak 4 year old feels less scared to get dirty herself. If I show amazement at the creepy crawlies I find it helps ignite their own curiosity and sense of wonder. Be an explorer with your kids as often as you can. If they aren’t asking questions YOU ASK. You might be surprised what answers your kids come up with on their own.
- ALLOW your kids to feel
Its not easy at first being alone with your own thoughts or having expectations and normal routines change on you. Kids will experience their full range of emotions and THATS OK! In fact its healthy! Let them be frustrated when they fail at something new, let them cry when they fall down after trying to climb up the slide, let them tantrum when they are upset they cant watch their favorite show. You are not a bad parent if your kids aren’t happy all the time. Your kids are not bad kids if they cant always control their emotions. This is part of the learning process and I can tell you from experience the quickest way to teach self control is NOT try and avoid outbursts nor to be annoyed or dismissive of them. Patience, kindness and instruction are most effective TOGETHER! If you are missing one of these you will not get the best results. Emotions are a normal part of life, its ok to let kids feel them. Remain neutral, breathe, it happens, hold them till they are calm, talk about what happened and what’s going to happen and give them the tools they need to better handle those emotions in the future.
These are my five tips for you and I hope they help you as much as they have helped me. Every year its the same story for us, I struggle to keep my wits about me during this transition BUT every year I also am amazed at how fast the kids adjust and thrive if I just stick with it! two weeks is all the average person needs to break bad habits and form new routines. YOU CAN DO IT!