Hurry up to Slow Down.
“Slow Parenting”– a trend that emerged back in 2009– when my kids where in middle-school and high-school.
The phrase took aim at multitasking parents who were scheduling dance classes on the cell phones while dropping the kids off at soccer– or those driving endlessly from activity to activity while serving mealtimes in the car. Instead, I decided to use the slow parenting concept and discover the important activities. I made sure my family concentrated on the few… instead of the many.
Committed to sharing “slow-time” as a family I added more quality time– and less quantity of time. I remember this period of my life as well. That was the year I grew up as a parent.
What took me so long?
I finally had enough running from place to place, and task to task. I decided to take my families time back. I presented them with an agreement to slow down. To commit to us and meet at the dinner table for family mealtimes, a minimum of three days a week. They bought it.
Eight years later, we still have mealtimes together- a minimum of four days a week. Might not always be evening meal but we do make a point of connecting at the family table. The investment I made slowing our family down deepened our emotional connections.
According to CASA – The National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse, at Columbia University, studies have shown that kids who do sit at the table and eat with their families frequently are less likely to get depressed, consider suicide, and develop an eating disorder or use drugs. They are also more likely to delay sexual encounters and they report that their parents are proud of them. When a child is feeling down or depressed, family dinner can act as an intervention.
At our home, around the dinner table, we would each take a moment to express what was the best and the worse thing that happened to each of us during the course of the day. Occasionally, I’d only be able to squeeze out only the worse of the best. Of course, it does depend on the day and the child’s communication patterns. Parents and caregivers I’m here to tell you these two questions provoke conversations you would never expect– and sometime, you might not want to hear… but need to.
Take a slow parenting experiment. Create an opportunity. Make the time to stop everything and connect with your child(ren). Give support, offer feedback, or… just listen.
My idea, credited to the author– Carl Honore- his book, “The Power of Slow” served as the impetus of the slow parenting movement. Slow parents keep the family schedule under control so that everyone has enough downtime to rest, reflect and just hang out together.
Been there, done that. Now, deep in my seasoned parenting soup, I believe everyone needs to just get back around the kitchen table and break bread together. No phones. No Television. Just yourself, additional family members and the children; eating and talking.
Breaking bread with my children rooted conversations about what was really happening in their lives during the daytime; when we were apart. Still does. I learn things as a parent, I really need to know. And honestly, I really believe I would not have gathered this information elsewhere.
Here it is, summer 2017. Back to school is approaching fast. This year make it a point to designate a day or two each week to prepare and enjoy a family meal together. Allow the kids to be a part of the mealtime preparation. When you’re in the kitchen with your child, how often do you find yourself pouring the flour, dumping the spice, washing the bowl… and before you know it, the child, only had a chance to watch. Let them stir. It’s only natural for us as parents to drive these skill sets, as they were driven for us. Slow that down too. learning to cook is a lifeskill. Teach to it.
Listed below are a few things that will help you get started with your children in the kitchen safely. Remember, it’s the process, not the outcome. As adults we view the world differently- in the kitchen, we all will have to address a child’s natural interest in the variety of shiny small-wares we have in the drawer. Because we use peelers, mashers, and cutters in our home kitchens on a regular basis, young children will naturally be curious about them.
Parents and caregivers look at that overstuffed utensil drawer as something that fulfills a purely functional purpose. But what does a child see? Through the eyes of a child, that over stuffed drawer looks like a toy box full of fun gadgets and this can be dangerous.
The right equipment combines with the opportunity to use it correctly, your child will be able to manage peelers, paring knives, and other kitchen gear with surprising dexterity and confidence.
Kitchen tools can also be hurtful to small hands– not to mention, tweens and teens.
While making determinations what tool for what age…, keep in mind every child is different. You should make the decision based on the child’s ability to focus, their desire to learn and their dexterity. Children should always be supervised in the kitchen but allow them to take on tasks unless you see danger ahead.
Children under 7 years old should be given tasks of measuring, additions of ingredients, stirring, kneading or mixing anything by hand. They can also shape the dough, spread things, mash, shred or tear herbs and lettuces. Shucking peas and legumes is good for fine motor skill coordination and dexterity.
Shopping, test tasting, and involve everyone in a cleanup. Children 7 to 9 years old can handle peeling tasks. Guide small hands with your own hand at first. The more often they hear, “Always peel away from you, not toward you,” the better. Have them peel over a paper towel for easy cleanup. This is a good time to talk about food waste and how peelings from carrots can be used to make a flavorful stock base for soups and stews, or saved from composting which is a great supplementary lesson.
Children 11 years and older are usually ready to begin using a sharp knife. When this age range peels vegetables with length like carrots– help keep their hands and the peeler further and further apart from one another. This is also a great time to teach slow once again. The slower they cut the less prone to an accident they will be with a sharp knife. Start this age group out with cutting soft vegetables; ones that offer a little less resistance and are easier to cut. Zucchini, potatoes, celery, cucumbers, eggplants, bell peppers.
Kids 13 and older can use larger knives and tackle more challenging cutting jobs. Even though these kids show more dexterity– keep an eye on them. Usually, this age breeds confidence which will lead to increased speed. Increased speed can lead to cuts.
Remember, a gentle reminder to “slow-down” is often the best way to keep someone on the right path. Make sure all your knives are sharp. If (and let’s hope not) someone gets cut- it is better to apply first aid to a cut from a sharp knife– than to tidy up a cut from an unsharpened one.
Whatever you decide, just remember … it’s ok not to attend every function, participate in every activity… and it’s ok to say, “No… we are already booked.” Only you and I will know- you are booked for the most important time of the day. Family mealtimes so, hurry up and slow down!
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