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Mindful Parenting Techniques to Bring Rhythm to Your Routines

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I've always been a firm believer in routines. The benefits of routines in cognitive function and emotional regulation are numerous. Routines were the foundation of my training as an early childhood educator and they've been a staple in my parenting. But, up until recently, despite their many benefits, routines have also been a huge source of anxiety for me. 

I tend to overthink EVERYTHING and the importance of schedules and routines for my kids has been no exception. In fact, during especially difficult phases of my anxiety disorder, routines can become a bit of an obsession. I would often come up with the way I thought part of the day "should" go. Then I'd get all preoccupied with making sure we stick to that, remembering the steps, and reminding my kids what came next. Planning a routine just for the sake of having would become really stressful when what I was trying to accomplish was more peace and calm. 

One of the recent exercises in The Art of Stopping Time, allowed me to re-frame my thinking and plan our time more appropriately. Mindful awareness gives us the perspective to be able to observe our family's natural rhythms and adjust our environment and activities accordingly.  In many ways, rhythms are similar to routines, in that they're predictable. However, getting into a daily flow through rhythm allows for some flexibility and takes into consideration everyone's needs, energy levels, and interests. 

It's unrealistic to expect ourselves or our children to perform optimally at all times. Like many women, I'm sure, I NEED some peace and quiet in the morning in order to have any hope of being pleasant the rest of the day. My son is quite the opposite. He wakes up talking, asking questions, singing, and bouncing around. 

So I took some time to consider how to prioritize my self-care and make our mornings work well for everyone, rather than assigning arbitrary tasks for the sake of a morning routine. 

My older son enjoys fine motor activities he can be successfully independent with such as cutting strips and using a hole puncher. I worked these activities into a weekly rhythm where cutting is Monday, for example, and lacing is Tuesday, and so on. I take a few minutes each night after they go to bed to set his activity out on the table for him. For my little one, I place a few books he's really been interested in where he can see them right away when he gets up. 

Giving them each a purposeful way to occupy their time right away without having to gather supplies or explain anything is crucial for getting my peace and quiet. While they work I can get my coffee and breakfast ready. Then I sit down with them to eat. After breakfast we have some circle time together for some connecting rituals (find out what those look like here) and movement to get our bodies going. 

Making this conscious shift from routine to rhythm has done wonders for our family. I'm no longer snapping at him to sit down and be quiet until I've had my coffee. Most days I notice big improvements in my mood, my son's confidence, and our connections with each other. We may not be stopping time, exactly, but this mindful awareness definitely has us enjoying it a whole lot more.