By Laura Reagan-Porras
Weekends are often used to catch up. We catch up on sleep, errands and everything modern life demands of us as parents. In their book, The Over Scheduled Child: Avoiding the Hyper-parenting Trap, Dr. Alvin Rosenfeld and Nicole Wise caution parents that overscheduling leads to the same stress-related health and psychological problems that overscheduled adults experience. Ever since Dr. David Elkind, cautioned parents about consequences of loading adult expectations onto children, in his ground breaking book, The Hurried Child released over a quarter of a century ago, parents have suffered from the guilt and anxiety of not measuring up to the fabled balancing act required of modern day parents. In his newer introduction, Dr. Elkind warns that childhood obesity, school violence, media messages through technology and the general commercialization of childhood are redefining children and parenting. Parents often feel caught between preparing children for the future and protecting them from societal ills. Perhaps this Valentine’s Day, we need to examine how we use our weekends as families. Weekends afford us the perfect opportunity to have fun. Zig Ziglar may have said it best, “To a Child, Love = Time.”
Schooldays can be too structured and regimented with tutoring sessions, soccer practice, homework and chores. Kids may look forward to doing nothing on weekends. If we aren’t careful though we can overbook their weekends too. We can send them to Saturday camps, tutorials or competitions. We may schedule play dates with children of the college educated set so their vocabularies expand, make stimulating visits to educational museums and take day treks to the zoo. These are worthy, educationally stimulating and purposefully fun activities. However, it is also important that we balance the scheduled time with some light hearted spontaneous moments of joy that celebrate the wonder of childhood and parenthood.
It may seem counter intuitive to keep a list of possible spontaneous activities to cultivate but the truth is, many of us simply aren’t good at letting go and having fun. Review the list below as a reminder to seize weekend moments and simply enjoy each other. The list is meant to help you watch for and catch the moments as they come and create more carefree weekends. Add to the list below to make your own homespun memories.
1. Kids meal night! Children will you usually eat what they have a hand in cooking. Kids meal night means the children in the family are responsible for planning and cooking.
2. For younger children – keep a snow day fun box and pull it out on bad weather days. Fill it with new markers, glitter-glue, old magazines, scissors and construction paper. Then let the kids loose to create a work of art.
3. Play! Or play in the rain or snow with your child and enjoy your child’s smiles and giggles with no agenda or time limit.
4. For older kids – organize old family photos into albums or start a scrapbook of a beloved family vacation. Talking about memories can help kids re-live the experience and create closeness.
5. Portraits. Buy a new box of crayons and draw portraits of each other.
6. Picnic. Pack a picnic lunch and go to the park to eat it if weather permits. Or create your own indoor picnic using a blanket on the floor of your living room or den.
7. Spring Prep. Make a bird feeder in preparation for the spring.
8. Storytelling. Tell stories to each other with the listener providing the first line and characters to the storyteller.
9. Rock Out! Put on your favorite music and rock out together! Get your groove on and give your kids a spontaneous dance lesson.
10. Dog Wash. Wash the dog together and get wet!
How will you spend your time this weekend?
Laura Reagan-Porras, MS is a family sociologist and freelance writer. As a mother of two, she is committed to playful weekends! She can be reached for comment at www.heart2heartparents.com.