It was 6:15 AM. I was returning home from the gym to begin herding my children towards their first point of destination for the day. A quick bath, check. Assuring that 6 bags were packed and ready to go by the door, check. Dressing a nine and a five year old, check. Shoved two breakfast bars in their hands as we ran out the door to join the morning commute traffic, check. Finally, 1 hour later, we are off to the start of our morning journey.
Phew. Who would of thought practical parenting could be so much work? With an I Pad in hand, Youtube’s Stampy playing in the background, one child upset that he forgot his Nintendo Switch, but quickly forgetting this lapse of memory with a timely redirection via I Phone X, Youtube and Stampy, I was happy we made it out on time, well to be honest two minutes late; but who is counting. At least we made it to school on time. No tardies, and I even taught responsibility through time management. That is what matters most, right?
Well, today, that did not suffice. Somehow, I felt disconnected, even in the beautiful capacity cellphones and tablets have in connecting us. It struck me that in today’s constant hustle, who has time to sit and have a quality meal, let alone enough time to have a conversation with our family members. Our daily lives may seem over-burdened, stretched to the breaking point, or just downright time deprived as we strive to keep up with the demands work, family, play, and personal wellness time. For many, it may seem like a burden to squeeze in that last minute of sleep for the day, so that we can muster up the energy needed to get through the work tasks at hand for the day. We just seem to go, go, and go, until we can’t go no more? That is part of the American Dream and Work Ethic, isn’t it? Well, today I forced myself to take notice. What the hell am I doing, and what lessons am I passing on to my children?
Don’t get me wrong, I am a firm believer in the ideal that hard work makes any dream come true. My motto, Advance Confidently in the Direction of Your Dreams is not only a company tag line I have created to market my treatment strategy in private practice, but also the internal essence by which my soul moves. I believe that through dreaming, hard work, determination, and perseverance, any person can move themselves towards success. I am not only a believer in this philosophy, but a proud recipient of its fruits. But how much is enough? It was time to get practical, and turn my analytic eye towards myself, in order to find the inherent gold I could leave my children through a lesson learned by self-observation of time management, work, and life balance.
As a psychotherapist and family man, I have always been intrigued by the idea of attaining a healthy work / life balance. Furthermore, I see the effects first hand being divided between work, life, family, and personal obligations can have on our own psychological health. While I know that frequent moments of hyperactivity and attention deficits will sway my attention from the daily tasks at hand, especially when I think that I find some proverbial greener pasture on the other side of the hill, I know that my heart is in the right place as a parent, even in times where I struggle to maintain focus. This is just part of who I am (squirrel), especially at inopportune times when I have to get things done. However, as a practical parent, I not only strive to give my children an adequate environment in which to live, I also strive to provide them lived experiences that model what it means to have and ultimately be a positive role model in a child’s life.
In a recent article, Practical Parenting: Fostering Your Children’s Dreams, I explored the how it is a our number 1 job as a parent to expose children to life events that will expose them to the dreams they wish to attain. A child’s underlying capacity to dream life forward is a cornerstone of their healthy psychological development. In fact, the one commonality I have seen amongst children who suffer from so called mental health disorders is a complete lack of capacity or willingness to dream. An inability to dream not only affects a child’s sleeping life, the time that the psyche is supposed to process and heal from the days stresses, it also affects a child’s capacity to set goals as a means to better ones overall outlook on life. This is an area where I see a large degree of parental and even social failure. What are we to do?
- SLOW DOWN – As I sat with my child tonight to put him to bed and we engaged in the last language lesson for the evening, I saw him trying to answer questions before they were even asked. It was a reflection of not only my hyperactive need to get things done only as a means to an end, but is also reflective of social institutions that reward speed versus though out and valid solutions to problems present. This is a source of stress for children, and needs to be checked, if we are to teach them ways to find true happiness in the moment, not a life of achieving quick fix solutions to deeply inset needs.
- Balance Work, Personal, and Family Time – The Rule of 3 states that we have 8 hours for work, 8 hours for play (family, personal, and 8 hours for sleep. All three are needed in equal terms to attain a a healthy Work / Life Balance.
- Time Management 101 – If you find yourself rushed. Determine what your Time Bandits are. In doing a time analysis, I found that my number one time bandit is not having my bags packed the evening before and not having a checklist to mark what items I need to bring daily. Reviewing a checklist for needed items and 10 minutes of packing the night before can literally save me 30 minutes of time in the AM where I am not as alert and my focus is geared towards getting others, and not necessarily myself fully ready. I would trade 10 for 30 minutes any day, how about you?
- TALK DREAMS – As a child, did you have dreams? Did some of them come true? Did some of them not come true? We have all had these experiences. By talking dreams, you not only open up your child’s capacity to engage in active imagination, you develop their capacity for self reflection. This is needed for healthy psychological development. By reflecting on one’s lived experiences, even in dream life, you help your child open begin to master their Self concept. Through the capacity to dream, a child can begin to see themselves in alternate models of reality, which forms the foundation for setting attainable future goals. The more your children get into touch with their dreams, the healthier the self-esteem and overall psychological health will be.
- Link Dreams – If your children’s dreams interact with your own, Link Them. This is where work and fun can integrate. If you have 8 hours a day to be with family, maybe you can begin to engage with your children in their various interests. My children’s interests, and I am beginning to think every child’s interest is in Youtube. Practical Parenting will be coming soon to this forum. My son stated he wanted to be a Youtuber. By engaging in mutual dreams, we both are learning from each other. In linking dreams, I can teach him what I learn, and he ultimately can master and teach me what he learns. In this concept, the apprentice becomes the teacher, which really bolsters a child’s self esteem.
- Create Family Time – By scheduling time, you give your children what they most need. Time is the one commodity you cannot get back. Time is also the single most important investment you can give yourself and your family. Only you are in control of your time. Do you want your children to be indifferent, or engaged? The Choice is Yours!