This is a post for PAIL’s book club book, “Simplicity Parenting, Using the Extraordinary Power of Less to Raise Calmer, Happier, and More Secure Kids,” by Kim Payne.
Let’s do some background first. We have been foster parents for two babies and a 4-year-old. These children had state mandated visitation time with their biological parents, and the 4-year-old we enrolled in a Montessori preschool 3 days a week. Visitations were anywhere from 2-6 hours in length 3-4 times a week. So in addition to the special circumstances these children had, they were busy. Their lives were not really their own as it revolved around state mandated activities, which I am not saying was a bad thing, just that these kids were very busy.
So when I read in this book about children developing “cumulative stress disorders” from all the constant busyness, constant stimulation from TV and video games, from being exposed to too many adult topics, and from too much clutter in their lives, I knew we had seen this in our foster kids.
When our foster babies would come back from visits they would be antsy, whiny, and clingy. For one of them if I stepped away for a second and she lost sight of me, she would burst into tears. We would have to spend deliberate time just quietly together, reading or just snuggling after visits. Often we would lay them down to nap so they could ‘reset.’
We saw the stress most significantly in our toddler foster child. Preschool was great for him, but also overwhelming with all his other visits and appointments. I would pick him up and on the car ride home I would ask him about his day. I noticed he would give simple, one-word answers as he stared out the car window. So I started just putting on soft music and letting him ‘space out.’ When we would get home we would do “quiet time.” We would pick out books and he would lay in bed and look at them for about 30 minutes. Sometimes he would fall asleep.
Payne recommends simplifying four areas of your life:
- Environment, de-cluttering your home.
- Rhythm, creating rituals and predictability.
- Scheduling, simplifying overwhelming schedules so kids can just be kids.
- Unplugging, limiting the amount of “adult concerns” that are allowed to infiltrate your child’s life, reducing media and consumerism exposure.
I can say we did all these things with our foster kids. We had not read the book, it was just instinctual once we saw how stressed out they were from their life circumstances. I can also say that when I think back to the times in my childhood when I remember being most upset or stressed, it was when adult concerns invaded my world. I remember being particularly freaked out when a fellow third grader told me what a nuclear weapon was. Fun times.
Now with Stella we already limit her toys. I rotate which toys she has each week, so each week it’s like she gets “new” toys. I am very big on doing rituals as well. Our nap time routine and bedtime routine are very soothing to her. We read books, then turn her light off together, then snuggle and sing songs. When I ask her if she wants to go turn her light off, she looks towards the lamp and signs the sign for “light off.” Then when I say it’s time for snuggles, she pops her thumb in her mouth and lays her head on my shoulder.
I really enjoyed this book. It really affirmed a lot of my own philosophies and gave me more pointers to consider. It particularly affirmed my own philosophy that the Television is evil. We used to live without Cable and I think we struggle with this now because in our current living situation Cable is provided for us. As it is now, the TV is not on if Stella is awake, but I think we may struggle with this once she is older.
Overall the book was good and I’d recommend it to anyone looking to take a break from the crazy fast-paced world we live in, but the key is it can’t just be ‘for your kids.’ It has to be something you embrace for yourself as well. Click the link here to read all the other responses to this book.