You need a little me-time — and with some strategic planning, you can get it.
For the parent who homeschools, finding a little time to be alone can be harder than getting the pickiest of eaters to eat his broccoli. But self-care is essential, and if you want to be your best, you need and deserve a little break. Here are a few ideas to think about as you decide how you are going to make me-time part of your family’s routine.
If your child is young and still napping, try to transition naptime to “quiet time.” This will look different for every child. You may start with 10 minutes of quiet time and slowly stretch that to longer increments. You may want to designate an area of the house for each child to play in, or allow kids to play together quietly. You don’t want your child to think of it as a punishment, so allow them to move around the house or do something fun as long as it is “quiet,” safe, and doesn’t involve you.
Beth Gulley, homeschooling mom to two children who are well passed the napping age, decided to introduce “siestas” to her day after getting the idea from another mom. Right after lunch everyone spends 20 minutes in bed. The kids are allowed to read, and she says her son has read quite a few books this way. Her daughter prefers to just rest, and sometimes she even falls asleep. She rewards them with a piece of candy after the siesta, though she is working on finding other rewards and stretching the time to 30 to 45 minutes.
Try storing half your child’s toys in a box or boxes in the closet and rotating in a new box when you need some down time. The toys from the “new” box will seem like new to your kids, and they should keep them occupied for a while.
If you are feeling creative, you can make sensory boxes for younger children. These are full of things that will be fun to touch, feel, and rearrange like dried pasta and beans with some spoons, pots, and pans. Other boxes could have sand and toys, beads and toy trucks, or items from nature such as pinecones, leaves and sticks. (Google sensory box for hundreds of ideas.) Children need to be supervised while using a sensory box, but you will at least get a few minutes to sit back while they play.
Don’t feel guilty about encouraging your children to play alone. This is a skill that will serve them well on into adulthood. To encourage them to play alone, be sure to keep your open-ended toys, craft supplies, books, and anything else that interests them accessible.
Make a point of spending at least half an hour of one-on-one time with your child each day. This should be time that your child directs, not you. That way, when you need a break, you can rest assured that you have given your child quality time.
Sometimes a firm but gentle, “Go play now,” may be helpful. Or, “You play with that while I get this done, okay?” Making your children feel like they are helping you by leaving you alone for a while can go a long way. If it works for you, let them play near you. It may only work for five minutes at first, but getting them used to the idea of playing alone for longer increments can take time.
There is nothing wrong with letting children watch some educational television or play games on their Kindle while you sneak into the other room for some quiet time either. Television is not bad for our children, especially when you make a point to fill your day with a variety of activities.
Make a deal with friends, family members, or your partner to trade time off with each other so that you have a break built into your schedule.
Be sure to tell your children why you need quiet time to rest or work. They might insist that they don’t need quiet time, but if you tell them that you need quiet time or else you might get cranky, they may agree with you! Tell your kids you are going to spend half an hour alone in your room, and when the clock turns to a designated hour, they can come get you. Better yet, plan to play a game or do another fun activity at that time as a way to reward them for good behavior. If none of these methods seem like they will work for your kids, don’t feel discouraged. All children are different, and it may require some creative planning on your part to find what makes your child more comfortable being alone or quiet for a while. What doesn’t work now may work well in six months, so keep trying.