All living things need rest, including—or, especially!—our children. When we help our kids tune into their bodies and minds and care for themselves, we are teaching them a key pillar of growth mindset that will support them and give them the energy to keep going.
Taking a Break Builds Awareness
One of the reasons we love the concept and practice of taking a break is that it teaches kids to tune into the language of their bodies and minds. As parents, we can show them how to read their own cues so that later, they can begin to do it themselves. When we see the need for a break arising, we can narrate this for them.
Babies are surprisingly skilled at knowing when to take a break. They will often work hard at mastering a new skill like rolling over, reaching, or pulling themselves up and when they get tired, they’ll show signs of hunger or sleepiness, or shift their interest to something easier. While their ability to self-regulate is built in, we can praise their ability to know when to take a break (Wow, you worked so hard rolling over and now you’re hungry!), which provides positive feedback and affirmation about their process of striving and resting. We can also offer them breaks if they are approaching overwhelm (Hey, tummy-time rock star! Are you feeling tired? Do you want to take a rest now?). For our little ones who are on the go, we can teach them to read their body’s cues when we see a need arising. This offers a great opportunity to help kids learn about time and structure: You seem hungry. It’s almost time for lunch, so let’s pause our play and head inside now. And every parent knows the tell-tale potty dance! It’s a great opportunity to teach kids that their body might be trying to tell them something: I see your legs moving a lot! Can you check in with your body and see if you need to use the potty? I wonder when we last visited the bathroom. Narrating a cue and guessing the need is a great way to teach kids how to be aware of their bodies and minds. A bright red face might mean it’s time to sit in the shade and drink some water. Grumpiness might mean we’re tired or hungry. We can invite our always-on-the-go little ones to slow down for a moment and refuel!
Reading Cues, Knowing When
Sometimes as parents, it can be tricky to know when to let our kids keep striving and when to step in and offer them an out. Since all kids are different and there are no hard-and-fast rules for this, we believe parents can learn along with their children about reading cues and making decisions together. Children have different windows of distress tolerance, but we believe it’s helpful for all babies and kids to have caregivers narrating their efforts, supporting them to dig deep and keep going, and also step in and offer them a body break or a brain break when needed. As parents, we are always learning right alongside our children and we can get to know their specific “tells” that let us know it’s time to help them out.
Rest Fuels the Journey
Experts agree: rest fuels our journey at all ages. And many say it’s not only okay to rest, it’s actually necessary. In their Healthy Mind Platter, Dan Siegel and David Rock outline the seven daily essential activities for optimal brain health and overall well-being. Four of the seven are about playing or resting our bodies and minds! Finding time to rest or play can be difficult for many caregivers with busy schedules-so find moments of rest when you can- even if that includes just taking a few deep breaths before your next task.
When we help our kids learn to read their cues and care for themselves at an early age, we help them to not only be more resourced and resilient, but this caring and self-connected approach can help them to be more connected and caring in their relationships with others, too.
A Feeling of Plenty
Perhaps another reason to help our kids slow down in a fast-moving world is because it helps all of us to feel less rushed and to trust that there is plenty of time to get things done and meet our goals. In a time when life can feel rushed and we’re going here and there at a fast pace, we can teach our kids to take the time to slow down and rest, trusting that there is plenty of time. In order to offset a prevailing sense of time scarcity, we can teach our kids time affluence, which can be especially helpful for older kids to learn before they enter adolescence. Researchers at Harvard have studied the concept of time affluence and found that when our sense of having enough time increases, so does our happiness. As our children are putting in the time and effort to sharpen their skills, we can help them to remember they don’t need to rush: I know you want to be able to play that super tricky part of the song, and you are practicing so much. Let’s stretch and have a snack so you can keep going.
Join us for Camp Slumberkins as Bigfoot rests and refuels before pushing off for the final leg of his exciting undersea journey!
Join us for our last and final lesson in How to Encourage Children to Keep Trying here.