When I watch kids at the beach, I always find myself smiling. It may be one of the few places where kids can be loud and dirty and run here and there—without adults telling them to lower their voice, wash their hands, and sit still.
So I’ve come to think of the beach as a safe haven for kids, a place where they can just naturally be their age without conforming to adult perceptions as to what is “proper.”
Camping in the woods also comes to mind as another safe haven for kids. Once again, in this environment, adults seem to “let go” of their need for quiet voices, cleanliness, and being still.
But not everyone has access to the beach or woods or, if so, there probably isn’t time to go there every day.
Yet, that doesn’t change kids’ need for daily downtime in a place where they truly can be themselves without adult restraints.
No, I’m not talking about allowing kids to run amok or do something harmful. I’m just advocating that we allow kids time each day where they go with their own flow, move at their own pace, and engage in activities that naturally appeal to them.
With that mindset, we can be creative and ensure our kids engage in daily safe haven time. So, how might we do this within our already hectic schedules?
First, we need to list our possible safe haven environments. On such a list, we may write: the park, the backyard, the bedroom, the beach.
Note that some of those possibilities include places within the confines of our own home. That then makes it easier to implement daily, rather than weekly, safe haven time. In other words, if we don’t have to do more than open a door (to go to the backyard) or close a door (to go in a bedroom) on our part, then scheduling daily safe haven time won’t be that challenging.
So, what might be some guidelines for safe haven time? Here are some suggestions:
If we do the last suggestion, we may (initially) experience that our child has no clue what to do. So, he turns to us for some ideas. If so, we say no more than, “Just go with your intuition. What sounds fun or interesting to explore?”
In such case, we may also ponder: Is our child’s life so programmed that he has lost his natural spontaneity? If so, then asking for help with safe haven time can be viewed as feedback to ensure that we implement this daily.
But more than likely, you’ll get a different response. Watch your child’s facial expression when you tell him he’s now going to have daily safe haven time, where no adults are going to be on him to do this or that. You’ll probably see a look of sheer joy.
And that expression and feeling is what we want to make sure is part of our child’s life—each and every day.
I was cleaning through an old cupboard when I came across a half-piece of paper written by my then seven-year-old daughter.
The paper said:
A paragraph about life!
Life is a wonderful thing. You can dance. You can play. You can jump. You can write. You can live. Use your life!
She’s now 26, and guess what?
She still dances (she is always enrolled in some kind of dance class). She has a high-level position—that she loves—at a prestigious company that requires her to use her writing skills daily. And yes, she makes time to play.
So how do we keep that child-spirit alive in our kids so that it stays with them as adults?
I’d like to say I had it figured out back then, with a set plan in place. But that wouldn’t be the case. So, I’ve pondered what (by chance) created such a lasting free spirit.
Here’s what I came up with:
Those are pretty easy “doables” for any parent to adopt.
So, here’s a challenge. Ask your kids: What would you say in a paragraph about life?
If your children’s answers reflect joy and a carefree spirit . . . smile, and know they’ll take that mindset with them when they leave home.
But what if you get a different kind of answer? Well, maybe that’s an invitation to try one or more of the above. After all, any paragraph on life can be rewritten.