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Helping Your Children to Understand “Downtime”


I was talking with my friend the other day about how she feels that she does not have any time for herself, with her 4 and 2 year old children. I recently had a son, whom is now 6 weeks old. I can understand how she feels. I know I should be napping when he’s napping and I should be napping now, but am writing this article. I procrastinated a little, but that’s another article.

After our phone conversation, I thought about how can a mom have downtime? I believe where it starts is how she can teach her children to have down time or quiet time. In my opinion, “quiet time” means the children are doing something that they may not need the mom to be with them. The children can do something on their own, and mom can have some relaxing time of her own.

Here are some ideas:

1. Explain the idea of “quiet time” first. Be brief. For instance: “ Let’s have quiet time, you can color, look at a book or do something that’s quiet, for 10 minutes. It’s mommy’s quiet time too”. This next part can be a little difficult to explain but the message to get across would be to not bother mommy unless it’s absolutely necessary.  The point is to help the child/children to be able to have their own time away from mommy, learning to be independent and to have their own space.

2. Start small. Kids can handle a few minutes at a time. You want to build on it.

3. Prepare to be interrupted the first few times, if not more. Instead of getting annoyed, gently reinforce that it’s quiet time and the issue can be addressed when quiet time is over. Of course, if both kids are hurting each other then you must step in.

4. Prepare your own relaxation time by reading a book, or taking a cat nap. Let go of feeling guilty about relaxing or not always being there for your kids at every moment. The kids and you need to have some time apart, even if it’s for only 10 minutes and you are all home.

5. Enjoy what comes from having a quiet time within your family. There may be more enjoyable moments because the children are able to do things on their own, can be more calm and YOU get some downtime.

6.  Get up earlier than the children. This can be hard but if for some reason the morning time is best for you to have your own time, then you will need to do that. If you are able to take a nap later in the day, when the kids go down, then it can balance it out. Yes, when children are napping, there are so many things that need to get done and I totally understand that, however, if you are complaining that you do not have time for yourself, then some different strategies need to take place.

7.  Have your spouse take care of the kids when they come home from work, so that you can have your own downtime.

8. Remember that a Healthy Mommy will be better for the whole family.

Teaching children how to have quiet time can be an easy thing to do, but it needs to get started somewhere. By a little time each day, the children will understand quiet time and your family may be even more peaceful. Now, I need to go and see how much sleep I can get before my son needs to eat again!

© Copyright 2011 by Kelly Sanders, MFT, therapist in Rancho Cucamonga, California. All Rights Reserved.

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  • charlotte April 1st, 2011 at 3:38 PM #1

    ha! This has never happened in my house with my kids and I have a hard time believing that it ever will. Sometimes it feels like the older they get the needier they get too.

  • Alisha April 2nd, 2011 at 4:45 AM #2

    Down time is good for all of us. It gives us the time that all of us need to recharge our batteries and ready for the next challenge. When I was a kid I never saw things in this way, you just never want to slow down. But now as an adult I really see the benefits.

  • daisy April 3rd, 2011 at 8:52 PM #3

    It also lets the children get into something interesting that’s a more relaxed form of play than tearing around the house. A bit of variety never hurt anyone and it certainly helped my nerves to have a break from the screaming and screeching when they would get too excited while playing. And that was just me. ;) Kidding.

  • Sandy April 3rd, 2011 at 10:07 PM #4

    Kids also need to learn moderation. Telling them a time to calm down and do something else is a good way to reinforce that. If you don’t when they get to school age they have no idea how to behave in a classroom setting.

  • Ryanne April 4th, 2011 at 4:46 AM #5

    I know that there are parents who want to shirk some of their responsibilities but you have to teach a child how to behave. You have to teach them how to sleep and relax, you have to teach them about the importance of good health and taking care of themselves, therefore you also have to teach them importance of a little downtime, for them and for you. This is not something that is going to come naturally to most kids. Many as we all well know will fight sleep like it is the plague and alone time will just never do. We have to teach them that this is ok, and they have to be able to see that we practice just as well as we preach. Be a good role model for them and exhibit the behaviors that you would like for them to have.

  • RYAN April 4th, 2011 at 9:07 AM #6

    My sister’s always having a tough time with her three year old son. He is always full of energy and it doesn’t take him long to tire two or three adults and that too very easily. These tips and suggestions here definitely sound like they will be of help. I’m passing these on to my sister. Thanks a lot.

  • Alexandra April 9th, 2011 at 10:13 AM #7

    Wouldn’t it be easier to have them play outside where you can see them? It’s not hard to look up every few seconds, sheesh. Get them fresh air while giving yourself room to breathe!

  • Tate April 10th, 2011 at 8:15 PM #8

    As a kid, this frustrated the heck out of me. I won’t be doing it with my own because I know how annoying it is. You put them to bed early enough in the day to have plenty of time to yourself and let them tire themselves out before that. Simple.

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