by Olynda Smith, AMS Certified Montessori Teacher and Simplicity Parenting Family Life Coach
Want less pressure and more calm?
Last week we began exploring the Simplicity Parenting practice of creating rhythm.
One aspect of this practice that I love is the reminder to build “pressure valves” into each day. Pressure builds up for children just like it does for adults. We all need ways to release pent up physical and emotional energy, and ways to receive energy so we don’t get depleted. Every person, and certainly every child, needs different activities to release the pressures of their days.
When you take the time to figure out what works for your children, and do the work of finding time and space to build those pressure valves in, you’ll likely be amazed at the effects. Children tend to sleep better when they have had some downtime during the day to process and release. Children, and adults, can be at their best with fewer meltdowns and much more willingness to cooperate when their need to release pressure has been met.
But what does a pressure valve release look like?
Generally, these valves include one or more of these elements:
- physical movement
- quiet rest
- time to verbally process the pressures of the day
For some children, regularly scheduled whole body movement will be the magic ticket. Making time to be outside digging holes, moving rocks around in wheel barrows, washing all the construction vehicles or riding back and forth on a tricycle or scooter are all good examples. Regular family dance parties have worked as one pressure valve for us. Giggling and roughhousing are other wonderful ways to release tension and create connection. Snuggle time or eating together can be a moment of connection that children rely on. If your child has dropped that afternoon nap, having some quiet time can be a wonderful re-set for them.
These pressure valves don’t have to be big moments. They don’t have to include primal screaming or meditation. It is most helpful if they are woven into your days in a predictable and regular way. The most helpful thing for your child will be knowing they can rely on these moments.
Here are two examples of pressure valves in our family schedule:
Snuggles and more snuggles
My three year old really loves to snuggle. There is usually both some quiet resting time and some giggling time involved in a snuggle session. Sometimes he shares something he is thinking about. It’s a wonderful pressure release for him.
He tends to have extra tension on mornings when I’m away from him. These mornings I make sure I give him a good snuggle first thing, then again for 5-10 minutes right before our wonderful caretaker comes, and I make sure to take time for a snuggle as soon as we are reunited.
This may not seem groundbreaking, but without the lens of rhythm and pressure valves, I might coast right through the morning without giving him those moments to process, connect and release. When I have missed these moments, it results in meltdowns, reluctance to let me leave, and much less all-around cooperation.
The great outdoors
After a full day at school, my oldest child is spent. Ever since she started school at age three, I’ve made sure we have lots of unstructured time between school and dinner so she can do what she needs to do. At a minimum I try to give her one hour of total free time, mostly outdoors. She can rely on that time and use it how she needs to. Some days she swings and swings, some days she giggles and plays with her brother, some days she’s in a nook reading, and other days she’s digging in the mud. When, for whatever reason, we miss out on this pressure valve release after school for more than a day or two, she is more likely to melt down, feel overwhelmed, snap at us and have a hard time sleeping. This means I am intentional about after school activities, including playdates. Saying no to some things means saying yes to keeping pressure valves that add to her overall wellness.It may take some trial and error to find what works for your young ones. And, as it is with all things, it may be a moving target as they grow. Look to your child to show you if the pressure valves are working. Does your child seem more relaxed? Do they seem to “reset” after that activity? They will let you know when you’ve hit on a pressure valve rhythm that is a keeper.