I have been reading an awesome book called “Simplicity Parenting: Using the Extraordinary Power of Less to Raise Calmer, Happier, and More Secure Kids” by Kim John Payne. The author is telling me everything I already believe: less toys, less books, less activities, less choices, less clutter, less ingredients, less distractions, less noise, etc. make for more secure, more connected, and more peaceful children. I am loving his insights, logic, examples, practical applications and writing style.
I am only half way through the book, but yesterday I was reading about the concept of “pressure valves”– the idea that kids and families need some built in rituals to relieve the stress of every life — just some moments of time to decompress and relax. Payne says, “A pressure valve lets a child release emotional steam.” The author suggests kids should have at least 2 (but hopefully 3 or 4) pressure valves built into the day.
He claims that if children have these pressure valves throughout the day, they are better able to sleep at night. The logic is if kids have had a chance to “let go” at different times during the day, they are able to “let go” at night much easier. Sleep comes easier and is more restful– not to mention that the day just goes smoother as well.
As I was reading this section, I realized that I have been unknowingly using “pressure valves” this summer. Here are the different times that my children and I release steam and pressure:
Morning Silent Reading: I have been having my children read 20 minutes each morning as part of their summer chores. I found that this requirement just slowed them down a bit and made them take a breath before they rushed out to play with friends. Pausing to read also helped calm them, if there was any residual stress from doing chores. A blanket and a book are just good for the soul and a great way to start the day.
Late Afternoon Quiet Time: I have yet to make my kids have a quiet time, but I have been implementing a quiet time for myself this summer. It is usually in the late afternoon like 3:00 to 4:00, and I tell the kids they are not allowed to bug me for an hour. It has been a training process, but they are getting the concept. Many days I fall asleep, but lately I have just been reading or decompressing. I find that after my quiet time I am much more prepared to handle the dinner hour and the rest of the evening. Payne says, “a half hour or an hour of quiet, restful solitary time during the day is restorative at any age, and a habit worth cultivating.” I knew I was on to something!
Before Dinner Read Aloud: Usually around 5:30 pm, I call everybody upstairs or home from friends and we all pitch in on dinner. We clean up, prepare food, set the table, etc. We are often done before Chad is home, so rather than get uptight that he is late or that we are hungry, we go read our family read aloud. Right now, we are reading the classic, The Wizard of Oz, in preparation for seeing the play. We all gather in our new school room and I read for 15 minutes. The kids are strewn all over the floor or sitting at the table. Having this down time right before dinner has been so relaxing for me and has improved our dinner hour. We aren’t coming to the table frazzled and overworked. We are coming rejuvenated and uplifted.
After Dinner Play: Payne believes “active deep play is an excellent pressure valve”. With the cooler temps at night and the fact that we haven’t hooked up any TV in our new home, after dinner has been a great time for my kids to play this summer. Play may look like board games, hide and go seek, wiffle ball baseball, or bike riding. It really doesn’t matter as long as they are relieving tension and letting the cares of the day go.
Bedtime Stories: Of course everyone loves a good story, especially kids, and bedtime snuggles are the perfect time to tell stories. As I lay by the kids each night, I try to share something small with the kids. Maybe it is something I saw on Facebook that day, a story from my childhood, or something that happened to one of my family members or friends. (It is much more fun to tell about your brother pooping his pants in 5th grade than your own embarrassing stories.) I prefer real life events, but you could also tell fairy tales, folk lore, scriptures stories, or make-up your own. “Stories give children the strength and the images they need to make sense of their world.”
We don’t do all of these activities every day, but I do think we are getting in at least 2 to 3 a day as Kim Payne recommends. I am loving and appreciating our “pressure valve” moments of the day, and I can feel a difference in my home and in me.
I hope to be able to adapt and/or preserve these “pressure valve” rhythms for the school year because kids and mom need time to decompress and breathe in our fast paced lives.
And I can’t wait to finish the book during my quiet time.