Friday, February 5, 2010

Solitude For Little Ones

I am a big believer that everyone needs a little solitude... mommy, babies and little children. With out it we tend to not be able to think, process and appreciate the times we are together.

Solitude is defined as: the quality or state of being alone or remote from society.

We often see Jesus seeking out solitude from the masses of people making demands of Him and even from those He was closest too. His solitude was characterized by drawing nearer to the Father God, to enter prayer, and to rest physically.

I know it is acceptable for mothers to find time of solitude, but in a parenting climate that emphasizes attachment, bonding, nurturing and nearly constant supervision how and why would I suggest a child, much less a baby to experience solitude?

Very interestingly I've found my children... all three, seek it out.

I first discovered this with my oldest baby. She was such an alert newborn, but was constantly fussy. We thought it was the usual suspects (colic, reflux, her personality) but in the end discovered all it was mainly caused by being over stimulated. What she really needed was a good nap routine and a little time and care to end her cycle of being overstimulated. Not only did I find she needed good, well anticipated naps, but also some morning playtime in her play yard... alone. She started that at about 6 months and has enjoyed her times of solitude ever since. And the fierceness of her fussing ended nearly as abruptly when we let her have time to herself. Odd, yes... but it worked like magic! Today, as a preschooler she asks for her solitude.

For most babies solitude is often in the form of a nap, daily rest time and good rest at night (weather with or with out parents near by). Babies often show their need for solitude through fussiness, an overstimulated wide-eyed look, pushing away, demanding personality traits or even with drawing by avoiding eye contact (this is common in newborns or infants).

As children grow and if they have siblings their need for solitude will most likely increase. I find if my three children are fighting, grumpy and at "each other's throats" they are really expressing they need time alone... to play without interference, interruption and competition. I also have a hunch that they enjoy the quiet, the clarity of thought to learn and to process and to even grow.

Because I have seen this magical effect when they get time to themselves, long ago we instituted "room time." Yes, this could sound eerily familiar to "timeout" to some children, but after getting out special toys, putting on some happy music, setting a timer and giving a kiss with a cheerful "enjoy YOUR room time" happiness and calm most often pervades. I often sit down with them for the first 5 minutes of room time and play with them... so they don't feel "all alone" at once and then slip out quietly while they are engrossed with an activity.

I usually start small... 10-15 minutes for babies or toddlers and slowly increase the time every day until they are enjoying 30-60 minutes of solitude... depending on what they like and need. I think the perfect time in a child's life to start room time is right at that age when they no longer need a morning nap, but still need some quiet time. Often they may doze off in their crib, but usually it doesn't disrupt the later nap. Times of solitude work well in that morning period or also after their afternoon nap, the section of time prior to dinner. You know, what some people call the "witching hour"... the grumpiest time of the day for children. Just think about it, they've gotten up from a nap, heard nose and commotion all day, had to share, and be kind, and it is just about all they can handle on top of wanting dinner... perhaps some solitude is exactly what they are screaming for! Plus, it has the added benefit of giving mom a peaceful time to make dinner.

All children's need of solitude are different. My little man (2.5 yo) enjoys a whole hour and a half of solitude... he plays, snoozes, jumps on his bed and is a boy in the house of girls. I think he secretly enjoys not having to share... and being the boss of his own domain! Our baby (18 months old), only likes about 20 minutes, to play in her crib with her dollies and other toys... and usually lays her head down to suck her thumb before I put her down for a longer morning nap. As I've stated, our big girl (4.5 yo) even asks for room time, she likes to play with her big toys (the ones that are choking hazards for the little kids). She sets up her room, redecorates, does crafts, reads and talks and pretends in ways she would feel embarrassed to with on lookers.

What do I do during my children's "room times"? Many things... clean, organized, rest, read the Word, teach home school, but mainly spend special time with one of them that I pull out for cuddles and undivided time with mommy! We all love that! I try to take time to spend in silence... no TV, radio or even music... Not too much blogging either. :-) Ahhh... solitude...

Question from a reader :-)
"Do any of your children share a room and how do you manage that?"

Yes, our two littlest ones share a room. We have a pack n play down in our bedroom for our baby to go take her morning nap in... when our big boy is in his room doing room time. Then they take an afternoon nap together. Our big girl has her own room for now. But, she is old enough to use self-control and to be more independent in room time and it would be quite possible to tell her to take her room time in a corner of a room or on the couch. I just have a general rule that she needs to be quiet and play alone... which she does happily. If you aren't use to doing this it will take some time to teach what quiet time should look like and perhaps you could model it for them one day. Timers work great for this too.

Really, I just try to find some time alone for each of my kids during the day, you could stagger their time alone in a room and have the other child with you during that time... doing chores, cooking or just playing near you. :-) Hugs!


merrell said...

i love this idea! but i have a question, do any of your kids share a room? how do you manage this?

Marci said...

Yes, Elias and Cora share a room. We have a pack n play down in our room for her morning nap... when Elias is in his room doing room time, then they take an afternoon nap together. Addie has her own room for now. But, she is old enough to use self-control and to be more independent in room time. I just have a general rule that she needs to be quiet and play alone... which she does happily. Really, I just try to find some time alone for each of my kids during the day, you could stagger it and have the other with you during that time... chores, cooking or just playing near you. :-) Hugs!