Creative Child

Why You Shouldn’t Trap Your Kids in Busyness

by Deborah Song on Feb 23rd, 2017

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So how do we go about achieving better balance for our kids?  And what about rest do our kids actually need? Here are some reasons why trapping your child in busyness could be counterproductive and some tips to help.

A cluttered mind is less creative. A cluttered schedule will inevitably clutter the mind. A Time magazine special edition on mindfulness reveals a trove of studies to back up why a cluttered mind is less creative. One study revealed that groups who were asked to remember fewer numbers gave more imaginative responses than their counterparts who were asked to remember more. That’s because our brains switch between exploratory and exploratory modes. In the former mode, we’re more open to new experiences and have a desire to learn and in the latter exploratory mode, we tend to rely on existing knowledge. When our mental capacity is loaded, we are more exploratory and less creative. Not only does having a cluttered brain get in the way of deep and agile thinking but neuroscientists also say that loading our mental resources diminish what we can allocate to what’s presently going on, robbing us of a full experience.

Tip: Commit to less. Sure, you want your child to play in the school orchestra, become a star athlete, and get straight A’s. And maybe there are seven kids in the entire country who can juggle all of these things simultaneously. But your child may focus better being committed to fewer tasks and feel more fulfilled in the process.

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Kids who daydream focus better. People who regularly meditate have been found to have different brain electricity; they pay attention better. So what is meditation exactly and how can we get our kids to meditate? Experts on meditating simply suggest you let your mind wander, and notice the thoughts and let them go. Meditation is nothing more than daydreaming, and it’s hard-wired into every child’s DNA. Kids don’t need yoga to daydream (though yoga has been known to boost mental focus in kids). They daydream while looking up at trees, stacking rocks, drawing or doing any number of kid activities. Those idle moments that seem like a waste of time are actually critical to a child’s ability to focus and have clarity. It’s in daydreaming where kids think about their experiences and connect the dots, the very essence of creativity as Steve Jobs defined it. 

Tip: Schedule in your child’s downtime like you would all his other activities. If you’re not protective about your child’s breaks, they may not get taken. You may also need to manage the quality of your child’s downtime. The kind of downtime that restores the body and mind doesn’t include hours of TV. So the next time you decide to schedule in your child’s me-time, maybe give him an i-break – no iPad, iPhone or any other tablets and electronic devices. It also helps if you’re enjoying your downtime alongside your child. Hugh Jackman was reported to sit in stillness with his children and admitted the ritual changed his life. If you’re unwinding with your child sans phone, it may encourage them to do the same, not to mention the benefits you’ll reap as well.

Better focus leads to more satisfaction. Avoiding the busy trap doesn’t mean avoiding hard work. It means more focused energy that usually stems from passion. I spend a lot of time interviewing kid entrepreneurs (link to: lemonadepost.com) who have started businesses and nonprofit organizations based on their passions. Since kids don’t usually have to work, they’ll only pursue ventures that give them meaning and purpose. These kids are busy too. But they aren’t busy for the sake of busyness. And that’s the point. Purpose and meaning help sharpen focus, but being able focus on less also gives kids the ability to discover who they are and what their passions are. There’s also a strong relationship between the depth of our sleep at night and the heights of our passions during the day. The more fulfilled you feel, the more energy you burn, and the better the wind down is at night.

Tip: Follow your child’s lead. Exposing your child to a plethora of opportunities is wonderful. But just make sure to do in it in doses. And realize that ultimately, it’s your child who has to do the discovering. Being told he has to or should like something will only keep him from feeling inspired, even about things that may have initially sparked his interest.

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Slowing down enables a healthier lifestyle. One of the worst consequences of being constantly on the go is bad eating habits. It’s not uncommon for kids to eat while en route to the next activity. A big part of being singularly focused and the mindfulness movement is eating slowly. When you’re child is mindful about what he eats, he involves all of his senses. Your child will notice textures, different aromas, and the varying colors of food alongside taste. Experiencing food this way has been shown to improve food satisfaction, which leaves them eating less.

Tip: Make time to eat. Good eating habits stay with kids for the rest of their lives. Try to have meals at the dinner table with the TV turned off.  And try to have some meals together as a family, especially since kids model their parents.

Deborah Song is a Los Angeles-based writer and the mother of two girls. She received her master’s in journalism from New York University and writes about parenting, business and kid entrepreneurship. You can read more of her work at lemonadepost.com.

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