The Nonstop Family
In our hurried culture, family happiness may be falling by the wayside.
Sarai Burris and Betty Casey
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The lack of resilience in these young adults, Gottlieb said, may be the result of never experiencing frustration, disappointment or outright failure, so they were not prepared for the real life ups and downs of adulthood.
“We need to give ourselves permission to be human beings,” said Dr. Berry. “It goes back to balance. We think a ‘good’ mother would be taking her child swimming rather than going on a walk with a friend. Maybe not. Mom needs social time and exercise for renewed energy for the child.”
Finding Balance: How Do Parents Do It?
Both Dr. Hudson and Dr. Berry said that every family and every child is different and what is good for one family may not be good for another. Dr. Berry said that sometimes just making a conscious effort to appreciate and plan for small moments can help ease stress. Planning and looking for such moments every day can also help restore family intimacy that is lost in too-busy lives.
“For example, it’s stressful to get up in the night with a crying infant, but if you take a moment to think ‘I get to cuddle and pat this baby,’ you can try to re-frame the moment. Or plan to read to your kids every night before bed and everyone can look forward to that calming moment.”
“I feel that my kiddos flourish from their experiences in outside activities,” said Katie Beck, a stay-at home-mom of Alex, 7, and Reagan, 4. Reagan will start half-day pre-K this fall.
“At 3 or 4, we started looking for activities. They have to learn to take direction from other adults besides mommy and daddy. And, they have to learn to work cooperatively and as a team.
“Even in dance, Regan had to learn to do the dance that all of the other kids were doing, not just the dance that she wanted to.
“The activities also help increase their strength and their balance, in addition to being physically active.”
Katie also says that Alex’s Taekwondo instructor reinforces the manners and responsibility that she is trying to instill in her children. “Alex is required in class to say “yes, sir” and “yes, ma’am” to his instructors. They also expect the students to use those manners outside of class. Alex sees that the manners I am trying to teach are not just important to me, but to all adults.”
However, Katie says that there have been times when she observed the children were in too many activities. Katie plans to temper the activities this fall so that Monday’s are off.
“Our 3-year-old was going to dance on Monday and Tuesday, coupled with Alex in Taekwondo on Tuesday and Wednesday, guitar on Thursday. Friday was soccer practice, Saturday a soccer game and church on Sunday.”
Katie says that because she stays home, they are able to balance this level of activity with family life. “Activities are almost always after school, between four and six o’clock. We get home about the time Brian, my husband, is getting home from work. So, the kids have time to play with their dad. We always eat meals together at home.”
“I don’t want them to look back on their childhood with regret and would have liked to have had the opportunity to learn a sport or an instrument.”
Cassidy Nelson, a part-time business owner of Tru Salon, has three children, Bella, 9, Anabel, 4, and Lincoln, 2½.
Anabel and Lincoln attend Boston Avenue Weekday School three days per week. Only the two oldest children are involved in activities outside of school.
“I don’t have Anabel in a lot outside of school because at Boston Avenue they are in soccer and music lessons about twice a month. Bella is in cheer twice a week and both girls were in hip hop classes once a week.”
“The reason I don’t have them in multiple activities each is because there is not enough time in the day. I think it is more important to have sit-down meals then to have your kids in a ton of activities.”
Cassidy says that, overall, as long as her children like an activity, she’ll keep them in it. “Bella is good at dancing and she enjoys cheer. As long as she enjoys it, I’ll keep her in it.
“But, I’m also not going to let them quit after two times if they say they don’t like it. For example, Anabel cried the first two to three times in ballet, but now enjoys it and is asking to be in it. She’s learning to socialize better. She’s met friends and is staying active.”
Cassidy shares her personal boundary for activities. “If it comes to a point where it causes a burden financially, you need to cut them because it will cause stress on the marriage and family.”
While Dr. Berry admits that finding balance is easier said than done, she suggests that being more mindful of opportunities can help relieve stress.