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The Power of Simplifying

How learning to let go can really let in

January is often a time where many hit the proverbial “reset” button. It can be a time to make some new changes, re-evaluate goals, values, plans, and expectations. This month, I want to spend time focusing on one of my goals for the year- practicing the power of simplifying. I’ve recently seen a huge connection between simplifying and how that can lead to decrease feelings of anxiety and feeling overwhelmed. The power of simplifying isn’t just about getting rid of things (though that is a part of it). It’s about a mindset change that helps to combat being overwhelmed. I often think that we live in a world where we constantly are expected to be overwhelmed with life. Overwhelming people with constant advertisement of things you end up feeling you need, or the feeling of being overwhelmed with needing to be constantly available (via text, email, etc.).

The theme of January will be “being overwhelmed” and how that is often connected to treatment for a variety of diagnosis such as Behavioral Difficulties, Anxiety, ADHD, Autism, etc. I’ll start this week’s blog with info and a review of a book I recently read, “Simplicity Parenting: Using the Extraordinary Power of Less to Raise Calmer, Happier, and More Secure Kids” by Kim John Payne and Lisa M. Ross.

  • Week 1: Book discussion on “Simplicity Parenting”

  • Week 2: Teaching about feeling overwhelmed (individual session)

  • Week 3: Group session on letting go

  • Week 4: Application in my own life

The author, Kim John Payne begins his discussion from the idea of too much really being too much. He describes some behavioral responses children have when they are overwhelmed such as resistance to listening, power struggles, meltdowns, attitude of entitlement, lack of empathy, difficulty maintaining focus for sustained amounts of time, and increase of anxiety. He then discusses the importance of the ways as a parent, you can protect your child from this mindset.

“Children need time to become themselves--through play and social interaction. If you overwhelm a child with stuff--with choices and pseudochoices--before they are ready, they will only know one emotional gesture: More!” -Kim John Payne

He talks about his work with children and families of kids with anxiety and behavioral problems and what the power of simplifying their lives and getting to the core of their family values can really do to assist a child in strengthening their attention. In other words, attention isn’t just what you choose to put your eyes on, it’s about all your senses taking in information and then your brain deciding how to process that information so that your body knows what to do. So if we can simplify the messages that are attacking all of our senses, we can allow room and space for our attention to focus, rather than being overwhelmed.

“Yet simplification is not just about taking things away. It is about making room, creating space in your life, your intentions, and your heart.” - Lisa M. Ross

I was really intrigued by his thoughts on the power of imitation. Children (prior to 7 years old) learn the best through imitation, therefore, as parents we can’t say what we want without showing it. What I have learned about this I’ve also seen in my clinical work. As a clinician, I emphasize on the importance in treatment with children, that parents must be involved in the process. For example, I may work with parents on strategies to help with emotional regulation skills. I try to help parents see their perspective when it comes to their expectations, and how to show what they want instead of expect it.

“As parents we also define ourselves by what we bring our attention and presence to. This is easy to forget when daily life feels more like triage. By eliminating some of the clutter in our lives we can concentrate on what we really value, not just what we're buried under, or deluged with.” -Kim John Payne

The book focuses on 4 tangible ways to focus on simplifying in parenting:

  1. Simplify the home environment

  2. Establish rhythms and rituals

  3. Scheduling (using breaks as benefits and creating calm)

  4. Scaling back on media and parental involvement (limit screen time).

An example in the book discusses transitions, and how difficult times of leaving one area to go to the next can be. Other examples of transitions include ending an activity a child prefers, or trying to get out the door. Some children may cry, express intense emotions, have frequent meltdowns, seem to refuse to listening or following direction, do the opposite of what they are being asked, etc. This looks different in every child. These are behaviors that can result from being overwhelmed. The book highlights establishing rhythms to provide consistency in the child’s day and to help provide them a sense of security.

“Meaning hides in repetition: We do this every day or every week because it matters. We are connected by this thing we do together. We matter to one another. In the tapestry of childhood, what stands out is not the splashy, blow-out trip to Disneyland but the common threads that run throughout and repeat: the family dinners, nature walks, reading together at bedtime (with a hot water bottle at our feet on winter evenings), Saturday morning pancakes.” -Lisa M. Ross

I highly recommend this book to any parent. I’ve been implementing some of these strategies both professionally and personally and have found it to be extremely helpful. His ideas go against what sometimes feels are the culturally acceptable ways of parenting, but to be honest in my clinical gut I agree with a lot of his ideas. I think his ideas in the book help to make a more mindful parent, and more present in supporting the growth of a child. If your child struggles with attention, independent play time, or emotional outbursts, then thinking about his four core areas of (home environment, rhythms, scheduling, and scaling back) might be extremely helpful in your parenting journey.

Thanks for taking time to read and please reply below with some of your thoughts if you have read the book or anything in this post that stands out as helpful!

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