by: posted Thursday, October 13, 2011
Category: Behavior, Education, Everything Else, Green, Health
Families who spend more time together while their children are young tend to have a stronger family bond for decades, experts say.
But it takes a lot of effort to plan and then live the "slow family" lifestyle, which suggests that kids don't need to be enrolled in activities for every off-school moment.
Tom and Judy Stadem of rural Tea south of Sioux Falls create lots of family time with their four children and foster child.
Tom has lots of siblings and cousins who have many children, so getting together with the extended family is a big part of the Stadems' life, too.
"Some people look at what we do and say, 'I could never do that,' but what a family does is a personal decision, by the family," he said. "It takes looking with some long-term vision and seeing what you want in the end, and making decisions now, based on that."
That's a perfect approach, said Bernadette Noll, co-founder of the slow-family movement.
For one family, it might be going out hiking after school; for another, perhaps cooking, Noll said by phone from her Austin, Texas, home.
"When we ask people what they want their family to look like 10 or 20 years from now, pretty much across the board people say they want there to be communication, connections and a tight relationship," Noll said. "But the thing is, you need to be building that relationship now, when everybody's under the same roof, so that 20 years down the road, you can have that sustainable connection."
It's the idea that more isn't always better, said Noll's slow-family-concept co-founder Carrie Contey, a nationally recognized parenting coach.
"It is about allowing family life to unfold in a way that is joyfully and consciously connected," Contey said. "This means slowing it down, finding comfort in the home and creating the space to see and honor the family as an entity, while simultaneously keeping sight of each member as a unique and valuable individual."
Practically from the moment parents give birth, they're offered many structured activities for themselves and their kids. From their first new-baby group to their kid's high school theater club, they are urged to spend the next 18 years devoting every waking moment to enrichment activities -- and with the school year in full swing, parents discover more extracurricular classes, activities and sports their kids can join.
Many of these activities have a lot to offer. But some take a lot of time, spurring some families to say enough already and slow down, the slow-family founders say.
The pace of life has been accelerating in the past few decades, said Scott Moeller, a therapist with Sioux Falls Area Counseling.
"Our society is pretty fast-paced, and I think we're groomed since we're little that more is better, and we can get caught up in that too much," Moeller said. "Some people need to slow down to enjoy a better quality of life, providing balance as a factor for family, and for all aspects of life.
"I would suggest that they be cognizant of how much they're taking on, and just allow some time to reflect and just be," Moeller said. "Take time to smell the roses, so to speak. Play with the family pet, doing things with the kids — set time to do those kinds of things."
The national Slow Family Living website and workshops, ebooks and workbooks grew from sessions Noll and Contey were working on for family classes. A recurring theme they heard from parents was that they felt pressure to sign their kids up for many structured programs, even though they really didn't want to.
"We were joking that what we need is something like slow food, except for families, and came up with the realization that people really need permission to do that," Noll said.
Noll's book Make Stuff Together came out this summer, and she is working on her next book, called Slow Family Living. In it, she describes things that work for families, including her own kids, ages 4-13.
"The kids wanted to play soccer, but we thought about the impact on our family life with everyone being on different teams," Noll said. "So we created family soccer, where one night a week we meet up with seven or eight other families and we all play, everyone playing together."
Youngsters play with the bigger kids and learn from them, she said.
"The 6-year-old is on the field with a 10-year-old, great for both because one is learning from the older kid, and the older one becomes a mentor and teacher," Noll said.
"There's so much pressure on family to do, do, do, and we hope to help them realize that just being together is a huge part of family life," Noll said.
But keeping strong family ties doesn't mean holding the children captive. Stadem and his wife keep a close eye on their children's interests, then encourage them to pursue them. One likes painting and drawing, another music, and another hunting and fishing. Their oldest daughter, is interested in singing, so she's taking voice lessons at Augustana College.
Lives are busy, but counselor Moeller said people need to make time to connect with family members.
"Some say they don't have time to do anything, and there isn't a lot of time to just be with each other and enjoy each other," Moeller said. "We need time to connect, or we lose sight of what's real and what's important in life."
FULL SOURCE: yourlife.usatoday.com/parenting-family/story/2011-10-09/Slow-family-movement-focuses-on-fewer-outside-activities/50712288/1