By Holly Koteen-Soule
We all know that sleep is essential for rejuvenation, and if you find yourself paddling hard all day long, you may also want to find a quiet mooring place somewhere in the middle of the day.
Naps give young children a chance to rest and recharge, but calm times during waking hours are also necessary for children of all ages to balance their active taking-in of new experiences. Parents, too, need time to reflect and center themselves.
Each of us may have a different picture of what that elusive place of tranquility looks like. When I was a young parent, our main source of heat was a woodstove. In the wintertime, we would sit and watch the fire. In warmer weather, our family loved to lay on the grass and watch the clouds. Every afternoon, I made myself a cup of tea and took a break for ten or fifteen minutes. The children sensed my need for space and knew instinctively not to disturb me until I picked up my cup and carried it to the sink.
Some of the ideas below may resonate with you or might inspire you to discover what works for you and your family. They include respites for the whole family, for children, and for parents.
- Soothe young and old with the rhythmic motions of a rocking chair, glider or swing.
- Find a comfortable spot to pore over a picture book, slowly, without speaking.
- Hum, strum or sing a quiet melody while wrapped up in a blanket on the couch.
- Give older children a gentle foot or back massage or draw shapes and letters on their backs.
- Roll a skein of yarn into a ball.
- Knit or sew with your children. I’ve known of several parents of toddlers becoming avid knitters because of the relaxation it provides.
- Recall a happy memory and make up a little poem about it together.
- Wash the dishes together, enjoying the warm, soapy water.
- Sweep the floor in the same frame of mind.
- Get outside and breathe the fresh air.
- Take a walk around the block. Look with your child’s eyes; notice what is around you.
Sometimes, parents might need to head off to their own tranquil isle by themselves. You won’t need directions, but you may need to be reminded that it is both permissible and healthy to set anchor in that beautiful harbor now and again.
Any activity done in an attentive mood can be restful and restorative. The main point is to allow yourself and your children to breathe out deeply, even for a short while. Your children can learn from your example and take in firsthand this important lesson on ways to find calm.
About the Author
Holly Koteen-Soule is a local mother and grandmother, the founding Kindergarten teacher at the Bright Water Waldorf School, and has been involved in Waldorf education for 30 years. Her teaching school, Bright Water Waldorf School, offers a mixed-age Early Childhood Program for children ages 3-6 on Capitol Hill. This mixed-age setting allows children to develop confidence and social skills through purposeful activities and imaginative play, laying the foundation for the academic work awaiting them in grade school.