Over the Easter holiday, my family spent a long weekend with cousins in Charleston, SC. We had such a great time, and the kids just love spending time with their cousins.
Today’s families have so much on their schedules; work, school (parents and kids), homework, sports, music lessons, church, choir practice, birthday parties, appointments, etc., etc….
Sometimes we need to schedule unscheduled time!
It is so obvious when we watch how our children react to unscheduled time that it is necessary, and a valuable must for all of us! Being able to enjoy the great outdoors, a family meal, or holiday memories is more special than many of us realize. The over-commitment and over-scheduling of today’s society can create stress and anxiety. Having time to just relax and enjoy each other without the rest of life’s demands keeps us healthy in ways that we don’t even think about. These demanding schedules can raise stress hormones, such as cortisol. Increased cortisol levels can cause difficulty concentrating, obesity, depression, sleep problems, high blood pressure, thyroid problems and many other health issues. Many of today’s kids are over-scheduled, it is important to make sure that children have time to unwind and relax. Given time to relax, cortisol levels will decline.
Unscheduled time allows for creativity. I’ve mentioned it before, creating and accomplishing things builds self esteem. Kids learn to make up games, build forts, and just explore their surroundings. One thing that time playing outdoors can do is help regulate neurotransmitters such as dopamine and norepinephrine. These neurotransmitters are important for normal brain function, concentration, organization, retention of information and paying attention. There is no doubt that kids need all the help they can get with focus and attention, especially those ADHD kids I talked about in my previous post.
During our time away, our children didn’t have a schedule, they ran around outside playing, jumping, climbing, bouncing, swimming, building, and just doing things that kids do. One thing I noticed during this time is that their was no complaining, no crying, no battling over attention, and the kids worked together to help one another! What a bonus for everyone!! 🙂
Another cool thing I notice about hanging with our cousins is how kids bond, and you just can’t predict these things. Most of us, as I did, would would assume that the girls would play girl things, and the boys would play boy things, but that isn’t necessarily the case. What happened is that the oldest cousin, Garrett (13) and the youngest, Drew Elizabeth (5) spent time together, and Joshua (10) and Anna Kat (11) spent time together most frequently. It has been this way ever since they were very young. It is so cool to watch Garrett try to teach and explain things to Drew, and help her learn new things. I even caught him reading to her on our way to dinner. This changed just a little on this trip because Cousin Garrett has a girlfriend. When G’s girlfriend was around, Drew had to share , but she didn’t seem to mind. Even adding another kid to the mix didn’t cause any problems, everyone got along great. Drew climbed right up in the paddle boat with G’s girlfriend, and he had to take care of both girls, it was pretty cute! He bucked up and met the challenge, I think it really got him some brownie points with the GF! 😉
Overall, I think the unscheduled time is good for everyone, kids and adults alike! Taking time out to relax and smell the roses is one of the best coping mechanisms we can teach our children! It never hurts, and always helps to let those cortisol levels go down every now and then! The hard part is leaving to go back to the schedule of day to day life. Both of our children were very unhappy when it came time to leave, Morgan and I were too. 😦 Joshua hid in my cousins Suburban so he didn’t have to leave, it took a few minutes to find him too, crazy kid. Drew Elizabeth was carried on the verge of tears, kicking and pouting to the car. You don’t have to be very old to know that unscheduled time is the best for everyone. 😉
I hope that you figure out how to balance your children’s time. There are so many things we want our children to experience and enjoy as they grow up. Don’t forget some of the best things in life are things that happen by chance, not by a schedule.
My wish for you and yours is that you find lots of opportunities for unscheduled time along your journey! 😉