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12 ‘Less is more’ steps to a calm home

I don’t know about you, but I feel in today’s world of parenting it’s about trying to constantly do more and be more. Families are becoming busier and with that it would seem more stressed. In paradox, it is common to hear parents ask: What more can I do to help my children to be less stressed? And how can I promote calm in my home?

Perhaps the answer to calming your home lies in the old adage of less is more.

Use less electricity

At the school where I am currently working, it is common to walk into a darkened classroom during the afternoon. Turning off lights is one of ways that brings calm to the students. Likewise, turning off overheads, screens, televisions, music, etc. in the home can alleviate the tension of the day and help children settle quicker into sleep.

Digitally abandon

Unsurprisingly, research shows we are spending more time engaged in social media. The negative association of digitally distracted parents ranges from reduced concentration, to risk, neglect, potential indications for autism, and so forth.

What is surprising is that research also indicates we’re experiencing greater negative versus positive emotions when using social media. Limiting your social media may circumvent becoming an unnecessarily grumpy and distracted parent.

Work less from home

The perfect recipe for a ‘day from hell’ always includes the ingredients of

  1. trying to complete deadline work, while
  2. attempting to simultaneously parent.

‘Visible but not available’ as a parenting framework does not work in my family. How about yours?

Though there are times when working from home is inevitable, the reality is: constant interruptions by children mean you work less efficiently and parent less presently. It’s stressful for you and stressful for your children.

If possible, accessing formal or informal care for short periods to enable you to work more effectively can be better than a drawn-out day of trying to do both things poorly. If possible, letting one parent takeover to give you a couple of hours of uninterrupted work time can help. For me, personally, if I’m down to the wire, working from 4am–6am (before the kids wake) will bring down my work-related stress before the parenting day begins.

Say ‘yes’ less often

Give yourself permission to put you and your family first by saying ‘yes’ to fewer things. Some days, simply cancelling a non-essential event or activity can immediately reduce the busyness within your and your family.

You don’t need to do everything right now

The pressures on mothers today seem to be immense!

I seem to be in the minority. I’m not trying to build a law firm, train for a triathlon, romantically date my partner weekly, grow all our consumables organically or look like I haven’t had children. All while trying to be the best mum in the universe.

I’m at a loss as to whether today’s motherhood expectations are self-generated or externally-pressured. Whatever the cause – please stop trying to do everything right now. Choose one or two things that genuinely make you feel like you parent in a less stressful manner, and focus on that.

Negotiate a homework break

For families of school-aged kids, homework represents possibly the most stressful way to end your day. Each year, I enable parents to negotiate homework breaks at school. The benefits of merely reading to your kids are well established. Likewise, encouraging ‘rest days’ at the end of terms can help restore overtired children and regroup families. This helps in calming your home.

Limit extra-curricular activities

Similarly, loading children up with daily and/or multiple extra-curricular activities is a common catalyst for stressed out children and time-poor families. School provides ample learning in the early years. Beyond that, choose one or two extra-curriculars a year, and be willing to let them go if you feel like you and your child are more stressed than benefited by the additional learning.

Structure less

Research shows children’s executive function (e.g., attention, concentration, planning, organisation, emotional functioning and complex play skills) develops better in unstructured play environments. So, relax! Grab your best friend and a coffee, and let kids do what kids do best: run like maniacs through parks and playgrounds.

Go out less

When given the choice, my kids will always opt for a home day every time. Modern parents, like me, tend to think that engaging our children in constant, external stimulation must be positive for them. Some of my most stressful days have been when I’ve failed to hear my kids just want to be at home.

Worry less

It’s easier said than done. However, research suggests our children’s emotional connectedness to mum commences in the third trimester. It is not surprising that when you feel worried/stressed/anxious/sad – so do your children.

Lower your self-expectations

My most overused quote that I borrow daily from Circle of Security is: “You only have to be good enough 30 per cent of the time to make great kids”. Good enough can be the perfect way to reduce your family’s stress.

At the end of 2020, when everyone was at the end of their tether, I grabbed fish and chips and headed to a free, outdoor water park. That dinner was good enough and that swim in the pool was a good enough bath. No meal prep, no table manners, no sitting still, no dishes to be done. Good enough was the best option that night. Recognise when ‘good enough’ is the best option for your family.

Schedule less

I’ve learnt this lesson more than once. It is perhaps my best ‘less is more’ example. While visiting my home town I thought setting up two, back-to-back, group play dates was a good idea. It was to allow me to catch up with as many old friends and their children as possible. It was not a good idea.

At the end of that day we collectively couldn’t have been more over it. I ditched everything but my hotel key card, headed to the beach – no phone, no toys, no money, no company, no distractions, and if your children are like my children, no clothes! Just me, my sons and the sun setting on Noosa Beach. I watched them run, laugh and importantly, unwind and reset. And so then could I. With absolutely nothing – the perfect example of less is more.

This article was written by Dr Rachell Kingsbury, a mum, guidance counsellor, psychologist and neuropsychologist. Dr Kingsbury currently focuses her career on school psychology and works concurrently as a guidance officer and child psychologist.

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By Angela Sutherland
After spending many years hustling stories on busy editorial desks around the world, Angela is now mum of two little ones and owner/editor at Kids on the Coast / Kids in the City. She is an atrocious cook and loves cutting shapes to 90s dance music. Angela is the editor of Kids on the Coast - a free family magazine whats on guide for Kids: things to do, school holiday fun and free activities for kids... Fun attractions, family food & travel, kids health & wellbeing, kids parties venues, parenting, pregnancy & babies, guide for parents. Servicing Brisbane, Gold Coast, Sunshine Coast and beyond, Kids on the Coast is an online guide for parents with kids things to do with kids, schools and education and lifestyle news located on Gold Coast, Sunshine Coast & Brisbane, QLD.

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