Rhythms bring an ease to life. When rhythms in the family home are consistent, and have a repetitive flow about them, they are the way to bring connection and most importantly, help with the transitions in daily life with our children.
I parent my dear two children a lot of the time on my own, as well as working full time, and navigating all of life’s offerings. The nature of my husband’s work means that he spends a lot of time away. Solo parenting is hard! Kim John Payne, author of Simplicity Parenting calls what solo parents do as double parenting, doing the work of two! So for anyone who parents on their own, this is what I know to be a saving grace, so that I can keep calm, and end my parenting day intact (mostly).
Take a quiet moment to stop and think about what a day looks like for you and your child or children. Is there a rhythm to your days? Do you wake at the same time each day, and go through the same way of getting ready to leave the home for the day? Is there a rhythm to the way you reconnect with your child at the end of a kindergarten or school day and then travel through the rest of the afternoon and into dinner, bath and bedtime?
Children love predictability with daily tasks, it sets both them and you up for success. Take any of your daily to-do’s, like getting out of the house in the morning, and create a same-ness about it. For the young child this sets a tone of ‘this is how we do this’ for our family.
When you parent on your own, rhythm becomes your co-parent. Doing the same thing, in the same order each day, helps a child to know what to expect next. To begin with, stay close, and guide young children through the morning, or whenever it is that you are intent on creating a rhythm. It’s not long and they begin to know what to expect and independence grows. Getting out the door in the morning becomes less fraught, dinner time can be a time of connecting at the end of a busy day and bath or shower times signal a slowing down and preparing for bed. Sleep is met with gentleness and bedtime antics are eased.
Remove all the choices you can for the young child. Even something as simple as reading the same book, repeatedly over the course of a week can bring a familiarity and connection that enables a smoother transition into sleep. Children’s days are already busy enough, without needing a new exciting story every night. You might like to pick a day of the week where a new book is chosen to carry you through the week ahead.
If you are finding yourself regularly in friction with your child at any part of the day, stop and think about how you might simplify that part of the day, and if it’s particularly troublesome, create a ritual within it too. A great example of this in our family home was when our dear daughter was 6, and suddenly coming to the dinner table was difficult for her after a busy school day. We introduced a new ritual where she was able to light the candle and lead the karakia before dinner. She was so enamoured with this new responsibility (using matches!), that she eased beautifully into the transition to dinner and learnt all about safety with candle lighting in the process.
For children who share their lives between parents who live in separate homes, creating a reconnection ritual when transitioning between them can be really helpful. Rituals need not be elaborate. It is the gesture and intent that creates the special bond. A walk around the garden, collecting treasures and coming inside for a snack, when done every time a child is received from one parent to the other, can create a bridge to connect into the new home. When receiving your child back into your home after some time with your co-parent, try to keep distractions to a minimum. Spending uninterrupted, quality time, one on one with them helps with the reconnection.
For more insights into how you can bring the power of less, and build more rhythm and rituals into your home, visit the website Simplicity Parenting: Kim John Payne has compiled close to 100 podcasts, each around 10 minutes long on a huge range of topics. My most recent listen was about how to have a connecting (and brave) conversation with your child’s teacher, it was so helpful!
Sending strength and love to all parents and those raising children,