I myself have taught my people to walk, leading them along by the hand. (Hosea 11:3)
Finding things that my kids & I can get engrossed in alongside each other is important to me. So much of the everyday time we spend together is spent trying to negotiate things like homework, mealtimes and after school clubs, and getting to the right places at the right time!
When they first started school I naively assumed that the hour or so between school and tea would be amazing – catching up on each other’s days, thrilled to be back together. But the reality is, as I’m sure most parents could have told me if I’d thought to ask, that usually it’s more like a flashpoint. Kids are hungry & exhausted after the day at school, craving space & a chance to switch off at the same time as feeling clingy – and often I have that feeling of ‘help I just needed another 30 mins to finish that job’, so things can get a bit tetchy!
It’s been important for me to be intentional about finding things that the kids are absorbed by that also interest me – or that I can develop an interest in! – that can be ready to pick up & do together of alongside each other in the flashpoint times of the evenings (at the moment its just before bed for some, after school for others, and that awful run up to tea).
During primary years with B, we spent a good few months with a dolls house, painted and brushes out & ready in the dining room so that she & I could paint it together during those times. Andrew & A have done similar things with models. Baking has also been one, especially at weekends when there’s a bit more time. But one activity that has lasted for years now with B & now seems to be working with T too is drawing & doodling.
We recently had a chance to get out our colouring books at the ASD support group I’m part of, and we learnt about how it frees up our thinking by occupying the part of our brain that so often overpowers our ability to calmly think, process & communicate. It helps us to process things differently.
..colouring in is an easy way to calm the mind and occupy the hands. Speaking at a mental health workshop in 2009, author, speaker and communication expert Mark Robert Waldman explained that active meditation focuses attention on simple tasks that require repetitive motion. Concentrating this way replaces negative thoughts and creates a state of peace, and many people who have a difficult time with concentrative meditation can find this easier. This gentle activity where you choose the colours to create your picture and the repetitive action of colouring it in focuses the brain on the present, blocking out any intrusive thoughts. (https://www.psychologies.co.uk/why-adults-are-going-back-colouring-books)
“When you draw an object, the mind becomes deeply, intensely attentive,” says the designer Milton Glaser, an author of a 2008 monograph titled Drawing Is Thinking. “And it’s that act of attention that allows you to really grasp something, to become fully conscious of it.” (http://www.theatlantic.com/entertainment/archive/2015/07/doodling-for-cognitive-benefits/398027/)
Interesting to find out about drawing, doodling & colouring from another perspective! I guess some of the same benefits are the same whatever form that absorbing activity takes, model building, crafts, baking, gardening.
Of course the benefit I was looking for is also there when it is an activity we are doing alongside or a project we work on together. The space and calm we find, we find together. It does draw us together – sorry couldn’t resist!
The girls & I are thinking about our family lent verses by drawing them when we get time… I seem to be creating colouring pages so when I have a few more finished I will make them available here.