By Ann Kroeker
In fall, a family’s pace of life seems to accelerate dramatically. As we coordinate homework, sports, clubs, practices and appointments, it’s common to feel like slaves to our schedules, leaving us—and our kids—stressed out, frantic and frenzied. Worse, our relationships with family and friends can feel strained and shallow as conversations focus on logistics (Where are your shoes? Do you have your backpack? We’re running late! Hurry!!).
As we zoom through this season and barrel toward the holidays, how can we slow down this manic pace and regain rich relationships? Our family has discovered that we get more out of life by doing less—here are some of our slow-down solutions:
Define success: It’s tempting to compare ourselves with others and simply copy their lifestyles in hopes of achieving a similar level of success. But are their values the same as ours? Form a clear vision for your family by asking, “How do we define success?”
Determine limits: We may not like to admit it, but every human being has limits. When we exceed those limits by taking on too much, too fast, we’ll be stressed and overloaded. This goes for our kids, as well. We may assume that they can handle a nonstop pace, but they may be stressed. If meltdowns are frequent, consider if a child (or Mom) is maxed out. By defining success and determining each person’s limits, it is far easier to determine which activities are working—and which aren’t.
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Imagine your ideal pace: Imagine your ideal day if it were lived slower and saner. Describe in rich detail how would it start and end. Would you begin with a morning poem or prayer? Would you work together in the yard and play games? Do you envision simple traditions such as a family walk at sunset after a family meal? Imagine ways that you and your kids could enjoy meaningful conversation and be replenished emotionally.
Edit your schedule: By this step, it’s often quite obvious what needs to be edited from your weekly schedule. Be bold! Start creating the life you want to live by eliminating what doesn’t contribute to your family’s idea of success. Be cautious during the next round of signups—a sport or club may seem like a great opportunity, but saying yes to one thing means you’ll give up something else. Say “yes” to the life you want to live by saying “no” to what’s adding confusion and stress. Incorporate elements from your ideal day and commit to a rhythm of life that offers pauses to rejuvenate.
Have fun: It’s difficult to promote much laughter or fun in a life lived continually in motion. Logistical issues can dominate our thoughts and eye contact can be difficult to sustain in the rear-view mirror. When we discover our family’s ideal pace and develop a rhythm that supports our vision of success, however, we start to relax and enjoy each other. With more margin in our schedules and hours in the day, slow-down families can play games, tell stories, listen and laugh!
Don’t be surprised when the world tries to speed you up again. Resolve to counter the culture, slow down and discover a pace your family can sustain over the long haul.
Ann Kroeker is a mother of four (ages 8 to 15) and author of Not So Fast: Slow-Down Solutions for Frenzied Families (David C. Cook). Learn more at www.NotSoFastBook.com and www.AnnKroeker.com. Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org.