Family Rhythm Part I: Quiet Time

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My daughter dropped her afternoon nap when she was about to and half years old and on one hand it was good news because she went to bed earlier and slept better, and so did we. But I missed the peaceful time I had in the afternoon, a precious time for myself.

For a couple of months we carried on with our days without having this refreshing break in the afternoon. I tried many times to introduce the famous "quite time" but it didn't work. None of us was quiet and none of us got some time to rest and relax. 

Until I couldn't do without quiet time. Two months pregnant I would just collapse on the sofa and fell asleep and nobody could stop me. Then I knew we needed to include a quiet time in our daily rhythm. And it's probably the best thing we co-created my daughter and I.

What made it work this time? What could you do to make it work in your family?

  • First of all, you need to commit to it. In my case, my pregnancy did this job for me.
  • If you feel guilty about napping while taking care of your children, you will need to give yourself permission for that.
  • If you worry about safety and about how your children will handle this time on their own, you will have to tackle this first. You will need to create a safe space where your children can have a quite activity while you are resting
  • If it's not clear to you what you want to do with this time, you will need to find what really matters to you, what you need in order to take care of yourself. You don't always need to nap to relax so you can also read a book, mindfully drink a cup of tea, paint, journal, anything that helps you relax and enjoy the quiet. It's easier to commit to doing something that really matters to you and your children will sense that.

I think that my daughter accepted "quiet times" when she knew she couldn't expect something else from me. I was exhausted and busy with the new life growing in me and this didn't let me any option. And I was committed to taking care of myself. My daughter sensed it. Children follow our lead when we are in line with our decisions. When we are committed to do what we say. My daughter also saw that if I could rest 30 minutes or so,  I had more energy and we could continue our afternoon time with something we both enjoy, our tea ritual (will write about this soon). She also noticed that she felt better after these time of quiet and relaxation.

 

  • Always talk about it first with your child. Explain the goals of your quite time and why is this important to you and to your family. Keep your family values in mind

 

  • Have a plan. Make quite time a special time, create an ambiance that you both enjoy and that you create only for quiet times

Looking back, my mistake when quiet time "didn't work" for us was that I suggested my daughter to play by herself while I was resting and she was not that interested in it because she already played independently most of the day. Sometimes she just didn't wanted to play at that particular time of the day and had plenty of ideas about what we could do instead (go out for a walk, do some gardening, read a book together and so on). 

Things changes when I explained that during quiet times and quiet times only she can choose between coloring or drawing mandalas, listening to relaxation music or laying down with me with eyes closed.

She loved this. Now she anticipates this moment of the day and she is looking forward to it. She decides which mandala she wants to work on and she prepares it for our quiet time. Sometimes she prefers to listen to our relaxation music playlist that we have only for quiet times.

If you are looking for mandalas, there are many free ones to download on internet, you will just need to search with "mandalas" keyword. You can also buy beautiful books of manadalas, combined with insightful quotes in bookshops. I love the collection created by Happinez . I'm not for coloring because I believe that creativity is stimulated by the freedom to draw whatever a child likes, but mandalas have a special energy, they are originally a for of meditation.

You can find relaxation music CDs online and in many stores. Try to find something that suits your child's personality. Some young children enjoy combinations of music and natural sounds (the sound of the forest, water running, rain, animal and bird sounds...)

Here are some other things that you could suggest (and they also work for younger children) :

  • listening to audio books, like for example "Peter and the Wolf". Usually children age 2 and up love this story. You can find more suggestions and our beloved musical books here
  • looking at beautifully illustrated books without text.
    • Gerda Muhler's books are gorgeous (Spring, Summer, Autumn, Winter- for example) The rather small format and the cardboard pages make them easy to be handled by young children
    • The Wimmelbooks are captivating. All the details and the endless number of stories that children can follow when looking at the illustrations of this book can keep them focused for a couple of minutes if not hours
    • My first discoveries collection has many interesting books. They have text but children can also spend a long time just looking at the images. You can offer to read the book together after the Quite time
  • listening to classical music CDs. Children usually love Nutcracker, the Carnaval of animals, etc.. Try to find good quality performances and avoid those adapted for children.

The idea is to make some of these options available only for quiet time so that they can contribute to creating a special moment, anticipated by the child. 

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  • Create a transition, a time that prepares your child for the quiet

This is something important with very active children. I realized that my daughter couldn't always switch from a phase where she climbs and jumps to a phase where she sits still. To make this transition easier for both of us, here is what works for us and you could try:

  • read a relaxation book. We love "Bonjour le calme" by Anne Craway. If you are an English speaking family, "Good Night Yoga: A Pose-by-Pose Bedtime Story" by Mariam Gates is a wonderful way of quieting down and relaxing
  • do some simple yoga poses for children. 
  • play the Yoga Garden game You will find it on Amazon and yoga shops. It's a beautiful game for young children and you will enjoy it too, I'm sure of it
  • do a relaxation exercise, a guided visualisation, ... Eline Snel and Anne Crahay have designed relaxation exercises and visualizations for children
  • ... more about all these in a coming blogpost
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  • After your quiet time, do something you both enjoy. Pay attention to what your child needs. Some children will have a burst of energy and will enjoy going to a playground or play outside, others will like to immerse in a book or spend time with you after being by themselves. My daughter and I have a Tea Ritual together (will write more about this soon)

I wanted to share this part of our Family Rhythm because I know that many parents are looking for alternatives once their children drop their naps and have difficulties in finding something that works for all the family. This can be especially challenging with children of different ages. Each family is different and this article is not a recipe :) Staying in line with you family values will help you find what works for your unique family.

 

This post is part of a mini series called Family Rhythm where I write about how you can find a rhythm of your days that works for the whole family. We often talk about following the child when we referring to the Montessori  pedagogy and to Respectful/ Gentle parenting. I believe that following the child is important. But important as following the whole family's needs in fact. Because we are so committed to the well-being and the education of our children we sometimes forget about what matters to us, the mothers, the fathers or other daily members. Truth is that our children thrive only when we thrive. So let's look at the bigger picture.