We all sunbathed at the weekend in glorious summer weather. Camping seems to be an option. Grilling seems to be the only way to cook our food, although I’ve heard reports that we eat a lot more when eating al fresco! days at the beach. The hammock is dusted and rehung. Summer offers us an opportunity to detach from our stricter routines centered around the school year.
there will be some parents here who struggle with this. For example, the light evenings mean a shift in the circadian rhythms that many of us, including young children, rely on for our sleep patterns. As a result, children have a harder time falling asleep because the prolonged daylight keeps them in a more alert state until later.
Similarly, trips abroad, even trips within Ireland, may have interrupted months of hard work trying to regulate your child’s sleep schedule. With the hot weekend weather, you may also have seen your child struggling to get comfortable and struggling to adjust to sleep.
I’ve never been a big fan of rigid baby nap and sleep routines. I think they are often too restrictive for parents to be flexible about the needs of their baby, their other children and the hustle and bustle of life. When nap and sleep routines seem mandatory, it also tends to increase parents’ fears that they may be failing in some way because their baby or toddler doesn’t fit this idealized child who seems to sleep on command.
However, there isn’t just a problem with rigidity in children’s sleep. The fear of the pandemic has hit so many families and there are more parents who are concerned about their children’s safety in general and have therefore restricted their freedoms. There are many more “helicopter” parents who are too involved in their children’s lives and managing every aspect on a small scale.
This is not healthy for children. They end up being too limited and never learn to take responsibility for any aspect of their own lives since parents took that responsibility long after it was necessary.
So maybe summer is the time to experiment with some more outdoor training. Outdoor parenting is a term coined by American writer Lenore Skenazy, who advocated giving our children more responsibilities at younger ages, such as navigating public transit or walking to and from school unsupervised.
Parenting in the wild isn’t about being detached from your kids or not caring about what they’re doing. It’s not laissez-faire to let kids do whatever they want. There are still many rules and structures for children and parents to stay involved in their lives, but the gist is that we need to give children more responsibility earlier as it helps them develop their independence and resilience.
While her approach (e.g. letting her nine-year-old son ride the New York subway alone) is a bit extreme for me, I see value in moving away from a “helicopter” approach to parenting.
For example, how many families enjoy letting their children play with friends on the lawn, in the park, by the river, or in the fields? I’m sure many of my generation can remember long summer days when we would leave early with our friends and come back when we were too hungry to stay out. I built fortresses, caves and fought imaginary enemies for hours in fields and forests miles from home.
This summer could be your chance to let go of some of your limitations with your kids. Maybe it’s okay to let them play until later. Maybe they don’t need arranged play dates, but can let a little more drift so you and they can take advantage of the nice weather, pack the car and just go for a day trip.
Instead of being afraid to limit what they can do, think of fun and opportunity as the driving force behind what they can do. Of course, they can make mistakes when they have more freedom, but reflecting on those mistakes can help them learn. Think about how much of your own childhood you spent learning from the mistakes you were allowed to make.
Maybe don’t send your 9-year-old to Dublin on the bus, but maybe it’s okay to let him go to a friend’s house to knock for him without arranging everything beforehand from you and the friend’s mum. And when their newfound freedoms wreak havoc on their regular routines, what’s the harm? Before we know it we’ll be back into fall and winter and there will be plenty of time to put things right again.
https://www.independent.ie/life/family/parenting/dr-david-coleman-summer-is-the-ideal-time-to-practise-some-free-range-parenting-41835901.html dr David Coleman: Summer is the ideal time to practice parenting in the wild