Tag Archives: Slow Family

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Back to School: 9 Tips for Taming Fall Frenzy

The flood of school-related papers seems to come earlier each year – the “first day” packets, the emergency and permission forms, the sports and other schedules. The start of school seems earlier, too — it’s up to mid-August in my neck of the woods.

A peruse around the internet shows that I’m not alone in feeling dismay at the loss of the long and leisurely summer. Parents in Chicago and Newburyport, MA, successfully lobbied their school districts to start school after Labor Day.  Legislators in many states hotly debate back-to-school dates each year.

Hopefully, you were fortunate to have had some leisurely family time this summer. Or, at the very least, some time free from homework, schedules, transportation, meetings, appointments, a busy calendar and a frazzled household. No matter when Back-to-School hits for you, it can be a challenge to keep the pace and spirit of summer in your family. Here are a couple of ideas for taming Fall frenzy.

Create Unstructured Family Time

Consider turning down the occasional invitation or activity to ensure that your family has some time by itself. Then devote to that time by not answering the phone and emails, and putting away the electronics and the to-do list. Families need to regroup and simply have unstructured time together – to play, to talk, to inadvertently create the small instances that go into the family memory bank. It is the little things that tend to bond families, and these often occur during unstructured time. This can be time to explore a craft or make music, just for the fun of it – in contrast to being in “achievement mode”. It can be a time to have a family game night or be outside in nature, to tell stories that meander as you do, or to merely observe the world. In earlier cultures, it was more common for people to take a break from the everyday. Today, in our 24/7 world, we sometimes have to create that time for ourselves and our families, in order to refresh, as well as re-engage with one another. If need be, schedule a family night on the calendar.

Eat As Many Meals As Possible Together

You’ve heard it before, but it bears repeating. Mealtimes are often the only times families have together. It can be incredibly grounding to just sit down all together at the end of the day and share triumphs and thoughts. It can take some planning to find the time between activities and work for everyone to come together, as well as the time to plan and prepare meals. If you enjoy cooking, doing so as a family can provide fun bonding time. If not, aim to keep weeknight meals simple and buy what you need for a few meals at once, to keep cooking and shopping times down, as well as costs. You can also make double batches of food, and then have the leftovers the next night. Or pick up take-out food on your way back into the house. While home-cooked meals are great, the time spent together is even more vital.

Spend Time in Nature Together

Nature’s schedule is so much broader than our busy one, that one can’t help but gain a little perspective simply by being outside. And, chances are that when you’re outside as a family, you’re getting some fresh air, physical beauty and exercise, which enliven the spirit as well as help create healthy habits for everyone. For some children, nature is where they feel happiest, and there are plenty of ways to enhance their experience of nature, whether through creating poetry or art out of what is observed, collecting items to display at home, playing games like Tag and Hide ‘n Seek, building forts, watching the stars, or telling stories and playing word games together while on walks. Other families might enjoy biking, rollerblading or water sports as a way to be active together and do something a bit special. Chances are, even if you live in a city, there’s a bit of nature nearby. Looking for ideas? Check out the Children & Nature Network.

Cultivate Friendships With All Different People

Have people in your life who are different ages than you, or whom you don’t know through your child. Sometimes what gets lost as a parent is a sense of who we are as people, and others – with whom me might share non-parenting interests – can help us reconnect with that part of ourselves and with a broader range of interests and ideas than may be prevalent in the immediate circle of school. People who don’t have school-age children may be less harried themselves, so that you can’t help but slow down in their presence. Perhaps there is a neighbor or friend with whom your family would enjoy taking a walk or doing a craft. Especially if there are no grandparents nearby, a relationship with someone older can be a wonderful, life-enlarging experience for a child. Many senior facilities welcome young visitors with a parent. Performing a service, such as visiting a shut-in, is an excellent way to slow down, gain perspective and make a friend.

Say “No” to More Things

We parents don’t have to volunteer to take on more at work, or to serve on every school committee that needs us. Periodically assess your needs and your output and, if something is out of balance, readjust. Likewise, children don’t have to sign up for a lot of activities. Often, children are over-scheduled to the point of creating stress for the whole family. Perhaps explore one or two activities at a time, and carefully consider costs and benefits before adding any new ones. It may help to assure yourself that it is usually not the last opportunity for your child to enjoy ballet or soccer. More pleasure may come from devotion to one thing at a time.

Evaluate Your Own Desires

Are you signing your child up for activities you would have liked for yourself? While exposure to many things is delightful and, indeed, a luxury, too much of a good thing can backfire. Try to be clear about whether your own needs or anxieties about your child’s achievement are fueling a desire to over-schedule activities. Often what children want, when asked, is simply more unstructured time with their siblings, friends or parents.

Make Time for Yourself and Your Spouse

This is often the first thing that gets bumped off the list of priorities. Adults who are burned out have no resources left for their children. Perhaps, having cleared more time for family time, some self and couple time can emerge as well. If need be, schedule time to spend alone, as a couple, or with friends from other parts of your life, even if you can only do so once a month. Consider doing more family activities that, while age-appropriate, are not necessarily child-focused. Sometimes children come along on our activities more readily than we expect them to, and the results can be rewarding for everyone.

Get Enough Sleep

Missing out on sleep puts everyone in a bad mood, which can add to daily stress. Try to have a regular bedtime for children and for yourself. If work remains to be done into the night, tell yourself it can wait until tomorrow. If there’s time, a nice routine before bed, such as reading out loud (to children of any age) can be calming and put a nice cap on the day, which helps everyone get to sleep better.

Let Children be Children

Sometimes, in our rush toward achievement, we forget what it is like to be a child. Childhood still lasts about 18 years, which leaves plenty of time for  structured activities. Some unstructured time for children (to be alone, as well as with the family) is desirable. Don’t be afraid to let your child have down time, to daydream or explore on his or her own. To even — be bored. Every activity doesn’t have to lead to a future goal. And every moment doesn’t have to provide outside entertainment. In fact, our tendency to over-schedule and over-stimulate children can create undue stress for them, as well as the inability to simply entertain themselves, play freely, tolerate stillness, or discover their own inner compasses — who they are and what they like to do.

Photos by Susan Sachs Lipman

These tips were adapted from Fed Up with Frenzy: Slow Parenting in a Fast-Moving World, which contains 300+ fun family activities and slowing techniques. This post also appeared in Frugal Mama.

Rhythm of the Home: The Blessings of a Slow Family

I am thrilled and honored to have a piece, The Blessings of a Slow Family, in the Autumn edition of Rhythm of the Home. I have been a fan of this beautiful magazine since its inception. (I have a piece in the Autumn 2010 Rhythm of the Home on Making a Fall Leaf Placemat.) It never fails to fill me with inspiration and beauty — photos are stunning, projects and tips are inspiring, and the contributors are uniformly engaging, wise and warm.

This is a hint of my story, which outlines many of the ways my family has found to honor the changing seasons, the rhythms of each day, and the community around us, through ritual, craft, nature and more.

When my family made a conscious choice to slow down, and reduce modern life’s typical pace, what we really did was get better in touch with rhythms and practices that have more in common with the turning wheel of the day and the year than with the artificial markers of the typical school and social year, not to mention the standard expectations about children’s development that don’t always fit our own children.

Because our modern culture can be poor at creating space for and then honoring life events and the movement of time, we have to create those rituals and activities for ourselves. Fortunately, my family found many ways to do that.

You can continue reading The Blessings of a Slow Family.

There are far too many delightful pieces in the Autumn Rhythm of the Home to list. I hope you will explore the issue for yourself. As for me:

I can’t wait to make these Reusable Sandwich Bags. I also love the Autumn Watercolor Crafts. And this is a very easy and original idea for a Shadow Puppet Show.

I am also eager to Have a Butterfly Celebration when the Monarchs return to their winter home.

This Autumn Pizza with Roasted Fig and Apples looks fantastic, and I’ve long wanted to try making Homemade Ricotta Cheese. I also really appreciate and believe in Using the Kitchen as a Place to Bond.

I am deeply inspired by The Story of an Apple, Nature Lovers, Four Fall Simplicity Seeds, 10 Steps Toward Getting the Break you Need, and A Season of Rebirth.

I am always moved by Erin Goodman and her thoughtful work and am thrilled that the issue features an Interview with Erin Barrette Goodman.

Even with all that, I have only hinted at the goodness in this issue of Rhythm of the Home. Do yourself a favor: Brew your favorite cup of tea, settle into a cozy spot and see for yourself.

Photos by Susan Sachs Lipman

Slow News: Aggressive Parents Force Easter Egg Hunt Cancellation

It goes without saying that most of us parents want the best for our children. We wish to help them avoid adversity and suffering. But how do we separate real trauma from everyday life trials? When do we, even against instinct, stand back and let children have their own experiences, free from parental insertion?

Apparently, some parents at last year’s Easter Egg Hunt in Colorado Springs, CO, draw that line in a different place than others of us: Within seconds of the egg hunt, parents jumped a rope and swarmed the small park, determined to get their children an egg. Their behavior was such that organizers decided to cancel this year’s event.

So-called “helicopter parents” hover over their children’s lives, doing practically anything to ensure that their kids never fail. As a result, many children never experience normal disappointment and may ultimately lack necessary resources and coping skills.

Others, like the parent quoted in the article, seem to display an outsized and misplaced sense of competition and even entitlement:

I promised my kid an Easter egg hunt and I’d want to give him an even edge.

Of course, there is room for appropriate and age-appropriate assistance. For instance, one might let the kids hunt for eggs or gather pinata candy by themselves. If someone (usually a smaller child), is left empty-handed, I see nothing wrong with encouraging another child to share, or even gathering an item and helping. And that goes for anyone’s small child, not just my own.

That doesn’t quite sound like what occurred at the Last Easter Egg Hunt in Colorado Springs, when parents were so aggressive as to not even await the game’s outcome and so determined as to not let their children try to accomplish something (and have fun) for themselves.

Where do you draw the line?

See my Slow News page for other stories about Helicopter Parenting, Slow Parenting and Play.


Slow News: Discovering the Joy of Quiet

It seems many of us are taking time for contemplation and looking inward – or we wish to. The turning of the year could have much to do with this, as we use the marker of time to take stock, begin anew, and resolve to create more of the things we desire in life. It’s also winter in the Northern Hemisphere, a traditional time for many to embrace stillness and rest in a way that mirrors nature. And, if that weren’t enough, it’s the end of the holiday season, which can also signal a return to routine and calm.

But there’s also something else at work.

Pico Iyer tells us, in his New York Times piece The Joy of Quiet, that people are so desperate to get away from the din of information and chaotic lives that the future of travel “lies in ‘black-hole resorts,” which charge high prices precisely because they are internet- and television-free.

In barely one generation we’ve moved from exulting in the time-saving devices that have so expanded our lives to trying to get away from them — often in order to make more time. The more ways we have to connect, the more many of us seem desperate to unplug. Like teenagers, we appear to have gone from knowing nothing about the world to knowing too much all but overnight.

Iyer notes that “the urgency of slowing down is nothing new”, but perhaps these latest trends point to the fact that, while the desire to slow down is not new, the urgency and the need to do so has increased. The frenzy of modern life and 24/7 communications has stretched many to the limit, and families and others are seeking techniques – be they “black hole resorts”, electronic-free days, or turning down team sports and birthday party invitations – to regain a sense of sanity, necessary down-time and quiet.

The good news is that you needn’t completely check out of life and into an expensive resort or an ascetic ashram.

Make a pledge to slow down as a family by turning off the electronics for one or more evenings a week and playing cards or classic board games.

Get out in nature together. Power of Slow author Christine Louise Hohlbaum offers some ideas.

Do a family craft or cooking project:

Whatever you do, try to bring your whole mind to the endeavor. Enjoy your family and time.

Photos: Susan Sachs Lipman

You might also like:

Slow Family Online:

New Year’s Resolution: Spend More Time in Nature
Slow Parenting Gaining Steam: It’s About Time
Coming Next Summer: Fed Up With Frenzy: Slow Parenting in a Fast-Moving World

New York Times:

Disruptions: Resolved in 2012: To Enjoy the View Without Help From an iPhone


Slow News: Slow Family Movement Featured in USA Today

Slow Parenting is in the news again, as more and more parents are discovering that dialing back the amount of organized and scheduled activities for kids can lead to more family time and the sense of fun and calm that accompany it.

USA Today just featured the slow family movement, in an article that originally appeared in the Sioux Falls Argus Leader, and features my compatriots at Slow Family Living, Bernadette Noll and Carrie Contey, whose workshops, workbooks and wisdom have been helping families slow down.

The article shares the ways in which some families have chosen to slow down and their creative solutions for making family time fun, meaningful and a source of memories and bonding.

Much current research backs up the need for the kinds of free play and family togetherness that doesn’t happen when children are constantly engaged in organized activities. Some of this thinking comes from Dr. Kenneth Ginsburg, author of Building Resilience in Children and Teens, who assures us, “There are no more valuable means of promoting success and happiness in children than the tried, trusted, and traditional methods of play and family togetherness.”

Perhaps that’s something to think about as we enter the busy holiday season.

You might also be interested in:

Back to School: How to Tame Fall Frenzy
Coming Next Spring: Fed Up With Frenzy: Slow Parenting in a Fast-Moving World
Slow News: Movement to Restore Free Play Gains Momentum

A great source of research is:

The Children & Nature Network

Photo by Susan Sachs Lipman

Slow Family Has Moved – Come Along!

While you were sleeping, workshop elves helped Slow Family Online move from WordPress.com to WordPress.org. If you are a subscriber, you may need to make a change to continue to receive Slow Family Online news.

If you subscribe through your own WordPress blog, you will need to visit SlowFamilyOnline.com and subscribe by email, in the right-hand column.

If you subscribe in a reader, you will need to visit your reader’s home page and enter the new feed address, www.slowfamilyonline.com/feed

If you bookmarked the old suzlipman.wordpress.com address, you will need to change your bookmark to www.slowfamilyonline.com

If you subscribe by email, you don’t need to change a thing to continue to receive updates from Slow Family Online.

Thank you for your patience and support. Cheers to enjoying a terrific and slow summer.


Photo by Susan Sachs Lipman

Coming Next Summer from Slow Family: “Fed Up With Frenzy: Slow Parenting in a Fast-Moving World”

Just announced! My book, based on the ideas in Slow Family Online, will be out next Summer from Sourcebooks. Titled Fed Up With Frenzy: Slow Parenting in a Fast-Moving World, it will contain resources for many of the craft, cooking, nature, seasonal, and other fun family activities you’ve enjoyed here, as well as tons of new ones. I hope to create a compendium of ideas and projects to help you have fun and make memories by slowing down, rediscovering lost arts from a simpler time, and re-connecting with yourselves and each another in the process.

Please come along as I continue to write about ways to slow down, find joy and reconnect. Please keep sharing your own ideas and thoughts as we continue to journey down the Slow Lane together!

This is the announcement that was in Publisher’s Marketplace. Thanks, everyone, for all your support. I’ll keep you posted on the book’s progress.

May 24, 2011
Susan Sachs Lipman’s FED UP WITH FRENZY: Slow Parenting in a Fast-Moving World, a practical guide full of projects, activities, and games that will strengthen the parent-child bond, and help families reconnect, to Shana Drehs at Sourcebooks, by Andrea Somberg at Harvey Klinger.

Photos by Susan Sachs Lipman

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