"Even if something is left undone, everyone must take time to sit still and watch the leaves turn."
The fall equinox happens this week. No doubt by this time the school routine is running smoothly for you and your family. It's a new season, with time and space to enjoy some relaxing activities before the hustle and bustle of the holidays.
What is special to you about fall? Wherever you live, the weather at this time of year is usually delightful—neither too hot nor too cold. As shadows lengthen and the days shorten, your daily rhythms can change with the season.
No matter how jam-packed your family's schedule is, you can adjust it to make more space for yourself and your family. How might you increase the time you need just for yourself? What would you and your family enjoy doing together? Longer evenings naturally make room for new routines.
As the airline attendants tell us, "Put on your own oxygen mask first." Get out your calendar, and schedule time for yourself— to meet friends, read a book, get a massage, or go bowling. Even fifteen minutes for yourself before answering those pressing family demands can help you feel calm and patient upon re-entry.
Perhaps you can share with your children outdoor activities that you recall from your own childhood: collecting beautifully colored leaves, walking on a nearly-deserted beach, watching birds fly south or squirrels gather acorns. Quiet times sharing thoughtful explorations can be soothing for all.
Be conscious about having time for family togetherness in your schedule, too. A monthly adventure to a nearby landmark, a visit to relatives, or a hike in the woods are good ways to spend time together without the distractions that occur at home. These outings could include another family and be as simple as a picnic in the park, sack races, or a game of softball.
Downtime at home is important, too. Children and adults need to refuel without pressure to do anything or go anywhere. Sometimes it's fun to spend the day in pajamas just reading or daydreaming in a quiet corner. Time without goals or plans is important for character development, giving children space to ask questions and wonder about how things work in the world. It also gives parents and children time to get to know more about each other.
For the brain to truly rest or be stimulated from within, it is necessary to shut off cell phones and have a day without electronic screens and video games.
Could it be that we sometimes forget about having fun? These days we seem to be focused on "worthwhile" activities in order help our children develop a skill, learn something educational, have an exceptional experience, or write a future resume. For those of you who find it difficult to just play, one motivator is that it is a wonderful stress reliever. We need not be serious all the time. After all, laughter and play are an important part of life. When children have fun with adults, they learn to relate to them in a whole new way. Family play helps children gain valuable social skills, paving the way for more effective interactions with peers and adults alike.
The following games are fun for the whole family and can be played with both limited time and space:
During this quieter season, you and your children can begin to make decorations or gifts for the upcoming holidays. Collect beautiful leaves and seeds to make place cards and decorate the Thanksgiving table. Take some photos to frame or make into paperweights. Create a special scrapbook of the past year's adventures to give to a loved one.
Talk about how to keep commercialism out of the holidays, and plan a few special events to stay focused: Visit a nursing home where children and pets are welcomed (don't wait until Christmas); plan a day of making holiday treats for your neighbors, then deliver them personally; rake leaves or shovel snow to surprise a neighbor.
Make this fall season the beginning of something different. Sometimes we aren't sure how to talk with our children about what is distinctive about this season, but experiencing its special beauty together is a good beginning.
—by Jane M. Jacobs, M.A., Montessori Educational Consultant at Montessori Services. She is a trained primary Montessori directress and also a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist. She has taught children aged 2 to 7 years in Montessori schools, Headstart, and also in a preschool for children with developmental challenges. In her counseling practice, she helps individuals, couples, and families.
—Originally Published 2015