There are days where I wish we could just jump off the spinning world and catch up with life. The closest to that happening, is for me to put a stop to all our regular activities and spend the day catching up.
The thing is though you can’t put parenting on hold – the kids still need me. In my parenting I aim to eventually have my children mature and capable enough not to need me (not for the practical things of life). I want them to be able to handle situations on their own – to think, assess and step out and take a risk. Training towards this can start at home.
Catch up days are a great opportunity.
Catch up days are the days I want to work on my projects, on areas of responsibility that have been ignored for a while. I generally need focus time. There are times that I don’t want interruptions (though a valid and significant part of parenting ) and catch up days are one of those times. But what to do?
- Get our attitude right: I can stop activities but I can’t stop parenting. This is a major attitude we need to correct before we can have productive catch up days. We can change our days activities, we can direct our children to try and not interrupt us but regardless of what is taking our focus, our children are still our number one priority.
- Set our children up to succeed: It works best in my day if we start with our regular routines (breakfast, exercise, quiet times, chores) including family devotions. Then we have 1-2 hours of independent focus time. This block of time is dependent on the children’s abilities but the goal is to have them focusing on something for as long as they can be productive and independent. Once my children were reading this included reading, writing, math, typing, art, music. It could be their regular independent study or a project they were working on like lego, animation, blogging etc. I have found that if they have this structure they focus much better on their own for the rest of the day
- Keep in touch: regardless of how well my kids do on their own they still need to know that I’m around (physically and emotionally) so I break my focus time (on my projects) into blocks of time and at the end of each block I touch base with the kids. I see if they need help, give them a hug, have a chat. Then once they are okay for the next little while I move back to my projects.
- Give them the freedom to make mistakes: I put a sign on my office door that says “Stop / Think” . The idea is that before they knock and interrupt me they stop and think if they can do something about it themselves without me. This means they may make the wrong choice and I have to be okay with that. If they don’t think they can work on the problem themselves (or with the help of their siblings) they are allowed to knock and interrupt. It is very tempting to simply tell them what to do, but it is more beneficial in the long run if I walk them through how they could have made a decision themselves. This is the way I use this ‘catch up time’ to train them to think, be resourceful, make decisions.
- Be a team: Get your children to work with you – not necessarily for the whole time, but for one session (anywhere from 10minutes to 1 hour or so –depending on the skills they have to be truly helpful). When my kids were young we would work together on extra household chores, because I knew I would work better knowing all those things were done. These days the kids can help me with almost anything – and can work with me for a couple of hours. The key to this is that we are a team, and we can help each other be successful.
I rarely achieve all that I want to in a catch up day, but if I’m diligent with helping my children, I achieve much more than if I hope they will occupy themselves with no guidance or supervision.