Forming faith rituals
I love having my children around, but it can be hard work too, right? In this article I’d love to share with you my two top tips on how to create the half term you’d like.
Top tip one:
Find time for you
This might seem a weird one to start with, but we all know that being at home with children is usually a pretty full-on experience. One thing I always find helpful is to remember to fill my own cup too. It’s too easy to just focus on our children and their needs, but everyone gets a better version of us when we have our needs met too.
Since it’s easier to be patient and kind and loving when we’re not tired or hungry or aching, one thing we can do to prepare for half term is to tighten up on our self-care the week before. By self-care I’m talking about the things we need to function well as a human and as a parent:
- Make sure we’ve had enough rest, maybe a few early nights, or cancelling an evening meeting
- Eat the right stuff, perhaps make a healthy dinner you really like
- Drink enough water (oh, I’m terrible at this!)
- Move our bodies regularly, maybe a quick morning walk or an extra swim?
During half term itself, it’s a good idea to have time for you each day, even if it’s just five or ten minutes. This might take time for your children to get used to at first, but I urge you to keep going – it will turn into twenty minutes and then an hour as the years go on and you’ll thank your former yourself.
When my children were tiny, I often only found solitude in the loo – if this is you, put a book (or maybe a chocolate bar?!) in there so you can escape and recharge.
Now my children are ten and eleven, I find first thing in the morning works in my house. It’s quiet and I get to sit with a coffee on my own in the quiet. And I often add a 15-minute ‘me time’ break in the afternoon, with my second cup of coffee, a podcast and my knitting. I sit in my bedroom and pause and my children know that if they disturb me I’ll start the 15-minute timer again!
Time for you should include can also include time to read the Bible pray, meditate or chat with a Christian friend, to walk in nature and admire God’s handiwork or however you best connect with God. Which brings me on to tip two…
Top tip two:
Last year, I attempted a crazy thing: spending 1,000 hours outside over the year. It was an audacious goal, but one I’d seen friends do and experience positive effects of it in their lives. I downloaded an app, starting off with an easy target of 31 hours in January, and ramping up to a hundred in the summer months when we did a few camping trips which made our totals easier to hit.
I can honestly say that organising our lives around spending more time outside has been, well, life changing. The effect of fresh air even on a rainy day is powerful. There’s lots of science you can read about the tangible health benefits, but my favourite benefits are:
- the incredible improvement on our mood from just half an hour outside
- how much easier it is to exercise, do ‘steps’ and just be more active with much less effort
- how much more we’ve noticed and appreciate all sorts of nature.
Yes, I know it’s winter but wrap up warm, make sure you have wellies and waterproofs, get a flask or two to carry hot soup or chocolate and off you go. I might add getting hold of a small nature guide and a notebook and pen, as this is a fab way to note down things in nature you notice, and research a little about them. I was amazed last year to discover five different types of catkins, each of which appear on their tree in a different month of the year.
We don’t have to go on a mountain hike in the Lakes – just a 30-minute walk in the park before the inevitable play on the swings will give you amazing benefits.
Don’t expect your children to greet this with enthusiasm, but keep it short and stick with it, and they’ll get the benefits despite their moaning (I promise)!
Appreciating nature merges neatly into praising and thanking God, the creator and propagator of all the amazing stuff we meet outside. I am more and more amazed at my Creator the more I discover, and the sense of awe and wonder I experience in nature is something I know is deeply spiritual. Having asked many adult Christians how and where they best connect with God, there are always a good proportion (if not majority) who say in nature or walking the dog. Let’s give our children a chance for that to be their story too by getting outside this half term. Maybe aim for an hour a day, or if that’s easy for you, up the goal.
I’ve got lots more ideas, like creating invitations to play, doing shopping, cooking and eating together, making simple challenges with Duplo or Lego, such as build a three-storey house or a vehicle that moves, but the activities which work will totally depend on your family – what do they enjoy? What keeps their attention?
I’d also add that it’s often a good idea to invite friends to join in activities, without cleaning our house beforehand – see it as a gift to your friend to get a real view of life in your house rather than a crazy clean version of you! Strangely time indoors is often easier with more children, as they are more likely to entertain each other.
You might want to have a daily tidy-up time – where everyone helps put things away and reset the family rooms – and some screen time – which gives me time with no one calling my name. Personally, I need both to stay sane, but how you do it is your choice.
If you want everyone to clear up, I find it works best when I’m clear and precise about my expectations in advance, and when we put on music, set an alarm and do it together. Asking or telling them to clear up on their own takes far longer and tends to take more effort on my part.
Lastly, let’s be parents who aren’t so focused on taking Insta-friendly photos and ‘making memories’, so much so that we miss out on actually being present. Let’s be the parents who ask our children questions and listen to them, who watch them play rather than running away to do chores. Let’s be parents who connect with God while we’re parenting, instead of waiting for gaps in parenting. I pray you have a good one!