How often have you heard, “I’m bored. There’s nothing to do.” You may have replied, “Go outside and play. Go watch television. Find something to do.” Perhaps you were secretly sighing, “And leave me in peace for a few minutes.”
Next time you hear the boredom complaint, say, “Great, wonderful. Take some space.” Enjoying “space” is one great way for children to allow their minds and bodies to settle down and find peace. We can encourage our children to relax, ponder, or empty their minds. We may call it “take a breather,” “time-out,” “peace and quiet,” “doing nothing,” “calm break” or simply “being.”
I use the term “space” to describe a state that is empty of expectations, conditions, and outcomes. When we take space, or time out, we engage in unstructured time. Children and adults often experience difficulty doing this.
Adults are used to the demands of performing a job.
Children are accustomed to doing homework or participating in structured activitieswhere the rules of how to use time are spelled out.
Learning to use unstructured time creatively is valuable. If we learn to do this, we can discover our inner beauty and worthiness. Our children can, too.
Do your children know how to do nothing? Can they uncover the revelation hidden in moments of stillness and silence?
We need to show our children how to use space if they are ever to gain a feeling of wholeness and inner peace. They need a time to feel in control-a time when they are not being stimulated by anything external. When children listen quietly to what is inside them, they may think of music and poetry.
When I was a ten years old, my teacher told me that she liked my poetry. I was so enchanted by her praise at my creativity, that I went home to create my “poetry space,” as there wasn’t much room in a small household with six kids. My mother lovingly allowed me this poetry space as I tore the covers off my bed, and brought them and my pillows to a corner of the closet. Stuffing it all in a corner with paper and colored pens, I was ready to write. I slept on my mattress with no covers or pillows, but my space for writing was sheer heaven. And it was all mine. I wrote over a dozen poems in a week, and my teacher dutifully read everyone one of them, and then I designed my first book.
A quiet space for a child can help in several ways:
- Their space is sacrosanct and the family respects it.
- Children create this space with a firm intent,
and it is their personal goal.
- They have an investment is this space, and they will contribute to it and achieve something there that is their creation alone.
- Cultivating these skills is what every parent wants.
I was spurred by a teacher’s praise. Children can be motivated to take their space by different invitations from you. One father loved to go fishing, and to interest his son in his hobby, he invited him to sit quietly in his boat and watch the fish in the water. The boy started sketching fish, and enjoyed the time with his dad. Although he wanted to be a vegetarian and he never learned to catch fish, he did learn to create.
We often forget that life is a process in which we are constantly creating. We form our cells and tissues out of the energies found in the chemistry of the plant, animal, and mineral kingdoms. We create thoughts, words, and ideas from our experiences. We realise life through the creative action of our senses and the endless searching of our hearts. Children need time and space so they can explore their own abilities to be creative.
Giving children space helps with discipline also. How much kinder it would be if you said, “I see you are upset (angry, agitated, hyper…). You need time for peace. How about going to the calm corner and relaxing for a little while.” This brings about peace for you and child rather than saying, “Go to time-out young man and you sit there until I tell you to come out. I am tired of your mouth.”
I have great respect for one mother named Melissa Halsey, (www.wisdomword.com) who helped her daughter get through angry feelings by having watercolors and an easel set up in a corner of her kitchen. Her daughter could look outside, and dabble in colors to paint her feelings. From Melissa’s example, my daughter and I created our own Coloring Corner, with beanbag chairs, several boxes of wonderful colors and the coloring books of mazes and the Anti-Coloring™ Books by Susan Striker.
Unstructured moments of time that other parents have suggested to me include some wonderful bonding time:
- Swinging on the porch swing
- Meditating as a family
- Walking with the dog
- Watching the rain or the snowfall
- Watching the stars at night
When told to go outside, here is what a group of 10 neighborhood children found in their space for exploration and fun:
- Climbing tress
- Collecting young fiddler ferns
- Sculpting with mud from the creek – like clay.
- Playing Hide-and-seek
- Watching ants
- Digging down into rabbit holes
- Sitting by lavender bushes and smelling them
- Picking berries.
In our space of nothing, we can find ourselves. Children become aware of their power to create the way they see by being quiet in unstructured time. Their creativity unfolds slowly and continues to show itself in the time when they are doing nothing. They miss this experience when they are trying to carry out predetermined goals. We do well to nurture creativity in our children, and we stimulate our ingenuity too!
Dr. Caron Goode is a Managing Director of the International Breath Institute, an educational and training organization offering weekend seminars and certification in the TransformBreathing Energy Management System. Caron is also the founder of DreamLodge Seminars for women and author of Inspired Parenting series. For further information, see www.InspiredParenting.net and www.FullwaveBreathing.com.