We all need a full stop at the end of the day, a signal that the day is done and it’s time to relax and unwind. Unfortunately, one of the negative side-effects of electricity and connectivity is that we have overcome the “limitations” of nature. We can go beyond natural rhythms and cycles of darkness and light. And this is where we lose our rhythm and balance and start overdoing it.
We need to adopt the simple practice of shutdown at sundown. It’s easier said than done when, as a parent, the to-do-list is never complete and just seems to get longer and longer. The hours of darkness when the house is quiet and there are fewer little people running interference, becomes catch up time. Sometimes I feel like my second day has begun when I have got the children into bed.
However, why not start the practice of looking to the sunset as a stopping point for, or at least for a moment of pause in our rushed routine? Resist the temptation to keep going at such a hectic pace and move down a gear or two into cruise mode for a while to enable you relax, recharge and reconnect with loved ones around you. Some days you may be able to actually stop and enjoy the sunset, say on weekends. In fact, wouldn’t that be a good idea, to commit to savouring at least one sunset a week, especially as the warmer weather has arrived? On weekdays it may just be a gear change and an acknowledgement that the day is coming to a close. Our children’s bedtime routines – homework, bath, supper, teeth, story and bed are probably the biggest marker for the end of the day.
Our children need us to role model healthy time and technology management principles so that they don’t grow up to be frenetic human doings instead of human beings.
Shutdown at sundown is a big challenge, but a healthy and affirming one to work towards. Depending on their unique demands, each family will shut down differently, but shut down, we must, for our own good.
Here are a few strategies you, as a parent, can implement that could make a big difference when shifting down a gear or two and connecting with family members at the end of the day:
- Be uncontactable. Switch off the computer and your phone for a period of time.
- Stop. Lie on your back on the grass or a picnic blanket with your kids and watch the last 10 minutes of the sun going down
- Change the mood. Light candles after dark.
- Calm down. Have a bath, bath your children, or bath with your children
- Go face-to-face. Talk to each other face-to-face and really listen to, and acknowledge each other, play a game or read a story.
- Eat together. Around a dinner table, kitchen table, coffee table – anywhere but in front of a screen.
Creative parenting expert, inspirational speaker and co-author of Future-proof Your Child (Penguin, 2008), and Easy Answers to Awkward Questions (Metz Press, 2009)