We are at a very exciting time in our lives. Both Angela and I have paid our last school fees and are now starting the slow and agonising trek into the HSC exams with our youngest children. Its funny the way life works. We both have raised 3 children (having had 3 children under the age of 5), with husbands who worked long, tiring hours. We both chose to be ‘stay at home’ mums during this period in our lives and it wasn’t until 2007 that are paths crossed. We became a team in the Early Childhood environment and have worked together, supported each other through some very trying times, and started a business that educates and empowers parents when raising their own children called Back On Track, Early Childhood Professionals.
The question that was posed to us recently was
“As mothers of older children, and teachers still working in the industry, what advice, guidance or support could you give to parents with younger children?”
After much discussion and deliberation, there were 40 things we wanted to share with you but have tallied the numbers and decided and agreed upon our top 4.
Why I found routine important when my children were young?
Children find a sense of calm and feel settled when they know what is coming next. By having a well established routine children feel safe and secure within themselves and have a strong feeling of where they belong and what is coming next, eliminating any unexpected surprises which could potentially unnerve them and their behaviours will be more manageable and predictable.
As a parent with 3 young children close in age I found the routine below worked best for my family. Within this routine though it is important to have slight flexibility as life changes and things pop up. For example going on holidays, work commitments changing or the arrival of a new baby.
The basic routine I followed was:-
7-9 am Wake up/ breakfast/get dressed followed by free play while the adults get a few tasks completed
9-11 Head out to the park, playgroup or childcare and include morning tea
11-1 Home with quiet activities or encourage children to help prepare lunch followed by sleep/rest time/quiet time
2-4 Activities at home indoor/outdoor, have a friend over, include afternoon tea/pick up from childcare
5-6 Start to wind down leading up to dinner/bath
6.30-7.30 Story cuddles/bedtime
My children are now in the late teens and early twenties and they have developed their own routine, which they have implemented, themselves worked out by their starting work/school and finishing. So in hindsight I feel by providing my children with routine at an early age I have successfully set them up with a life skill, which they are taking into their adult life. And, yes most nights we still sit down together as a family and have dinner.
When I was a stay at home Mum, it was everything I had wanted to do, to give my children the very best start in life. My husband and I had made a very conscious decision that this is the way we would like our children raised, even though it was a significant burden on our financial situation. My days were endless, quite monotonous at times, yet extremely rewarding also, watching those vital milestones being achieved. Yet when anyone asked me what I did? I felt inferior and as though I was freeloading. “I’m a stay at home mum”.
So in hindsight, I wish I had stood loud and proud at being a stay at home mum and enjoyed my time more with the knowledge that those precious days are over so quickly and life moves on. It’s silly the way I had made this perception of myself because no one made me feel this way except the pressure I posed on myself.
I know that working mums also feel guilt. They miss out on those milestones with someone else raising their child. Guilt is everywhere for mums. We need to give ourselves a break, pat each other on the back, talk ourselves up and be proud and confident of whatever decision we make because when it comes down to it, the only thing that really matters is that all children have someone who loves them, cares for their well being and is doing their very best to raise then accordingly.
Why as parents do we feel the need to overschedule our children?
Well this is an interesting question for me as I have just watched Carl Honore’s Frantic Family Rescue on the ABC and I reflected on my children’s schedule when they were little. I was fortunate that I had the opportunity to be a stay at home Mum during their early years so before they started school I had the luxury of time.
But, in hindsight I was one of those parents who overschedule their children’s afternoons. My kids did swimming, dancing, rugby, hockey, softball, baseball, nippers, gymnastics, singing and played instruments!! I am sure that is not all?
Once they started school the juggling act with after school activities began as I also returned to the paid work force. I now wish we had spent more time at the beach just playing and exploring, hanging at the park just being.
We did do a lot of this but maybe if I wasn’t the crazy overscheduling Mum who wanted their kids to experience everything, we could have had more time to just chill.
I feel that we want to give our children everything and as many experience’s as we can, but what they really want is to spend time with us and have our undivided attention and to have fun.
What do you think about technology?
This question is asked of us regularly in our workshops to parents and because of this, as far as technology goes, you can love it or hate it, but the truth is that technology is here to stay and has become a permanent part of our lives and especially the lives of our children. There is however great concern about how it may be affecting our children but when we talk about children 2-6 years old, parents do control what is happening in their lives and supervising them appropriately and therefore here lays the answer to technology.
I believe we should be embracing its advantages of which there are many and teaching our children how to establish and maintain boundaries around its usage. 0-2 years should have zero screen time and then 2-6 should be no more than 2 hours maximum a day. Be very honest with yourself though and include phones, computers, televisions and ipads they are all screen time.
So what kinds of rules and expectations should we be setting? Here are a few ideas:
Routine- be clear where and when devices can be used. Set up expectation for when time is up and follow through on your requests.
Dinnertime- no screens at the dinner table, including the TV
Bedrooms- no phones and especially no TVs. Set up a charging station so you can monitor and oversee devices before bedtime.
Facebook- role model appropriate usage, and set specific times at home generally when the children are in bed
Parenting is never easy but stay strong on your beliefs and always ask yourself the question
‘What type of adult do I see my child becoming?’