From school drop-offs to after-school practices and weekend soccer games, parenting can sometimes feel like one big logistical rush to get from Point A to Point B on time. Even though we know that over-scheduling your kids doesn't help their grade point average or boost their mental health—and it certainly doesn't do you any favors—it's easy to fall into that trap. If that sounds familiar, there's a parenting style that might sound appealing to you: slow parenting.
Slow parenting, as it is suitably named, allows you and your family to move at your own speed. It has gained traction as journalist Carl Honoré's writings about the movement have increased in popularity, and it's been shown to help kids (and parents) experience life more fully so they can discover who they truly are.
"We get so many messages about what we should do and what we have to do," says Bernadette Noll, author of the book Slow Family Living: 75 Simple Ways to Slow Down, Connect, and Create More Joy. "I think the answer to slow family lies within each one of us when we give ourselves enough time to pause and evaluate what it is that we desire from family life."
If you're eager to decelerate your own parenting, here's how to get started.
It's been said a million times before: Smartphones can take us out of the moment, so Noll recommends being intentional about the time you spend together. When everyone's screens are set aside, you're enjoying the moment and connecting as a family, unburdened by your schedule. If it's been a long, exhausting day, you can simply lie on the floor and interact with your kids (if they'll let you lie down, anyway).
"It's paying attention and finding presence where you can throughout the day," Noll says. "You're putting everything down for 10 or 15 minutes. Those points of connection do not require giant chunks of time."
Give yourself plenty of time
If you've ever tried to hurry your children to school or swim practice, you know that putting them in a rushed state will inevitably lead to a meltdown. If you find that getting everybody ready in the last 10 minutes before you're supposed to leave puts people in a panic, give everyone 20 minutes instead.
"I equate it to when you're in traffic, and you have an appointment to get to,” Noll says. "You're driving, cursing the other drivers because of how they drive, and you're just really tense. If you have allowed yourself enough time to get there, it's just a totally different feeling."
Put family time on the calendar
Slow parenting is about putting fewer appointments on your calendar, right? But think about how much weight something on your schedule has. You won't let something come up at the last minute and interfere with that meeting or appointment. Putting family time on your calendar will make you less likely to give that time away to someone or something else.
"You're giving it as much priority as any other thing that you put on your calendar," Noll says.
Discuss what's working (and what isn't)
It will take some time to figure out how slow parenting best fits your family dynamic, so Noll suggests taking time out of your week to evaluate what's working, what isn't, and what your priorities are. Ask yourself if the way things are going works for your home, and work together to plan, prioritize, and set achievable goals.
Your kids won't fall behind
There is tremendous pressure to fill college resumes with extracurriculars and volunteer opportunities, which is in direct contrast to the principles of slow parenting. Yet, lightening the load could make students feel as if they're behind the curve.
Noll says if your family has taken the time to prioritize what's important and set goals, students won't feel like they must play catch up to get into a good school. Much of what colleges look for can be achieved together as a family.
"You can work on events together," Noll says. "You can volunteer together. You can incorporate the list [of goals] into what it is that you want to do as a family."