In the post yesterday we talked about using nature at church to help de-stress the child of divorce. It’s a lonely world out there when you are parenting alone and your kid gets stressed out over something you have no control over. As kidmin kind of people it is good to have a few suggestions to help parents parenting alone.
When I was a single parent my kids and I stumbled onto the idea of going outside to calm us down. My son ran; I walked and gardened; as a family we spent a lot of time in a swimming pool. Sometimes my daughter and I just sat in the backyard and talked. We learned that after we had spent time outside in God’s beautiful creation that we
- Felt better
- Were relaxed
- Slept better
- Were all in a better mood
- We laughed more
- Big problems didn’t seem so catastrophic any longer
- We enjoyed each other and came together as a family
Now we have brain research and God’s word that proves this to be true. Psalm 19:1-6 allows us to hear how David described God’s creation. I have used this passage of scripture to help single parents realize the importance of acknowledging the beauty of nature with their children.
Psalm 19:1-6 The heavens declare the glory of God; skies proclaim the work of his hands. Day after day they pour forth speech; night after night they reveal knowledge. They have no speech, they use no words; no sound is heard from them. Yet their voice goes out into all the earth, their words to the ends of the world. In the heavens God has pitched a tent for the sun. It is like a bridegroom coming out of his chamber, like a champion rejoicing to run his course. It rises at one end of the heavens and makes its circuit to the other; nothing is deprived of its warmth.
I want to share with you an exercise that I just used to help single parents realize how important it is to get their kids outside and to see what David saw so many years ago. Many of the kids in single parent homes spend a lot of time indoors and on a screen of some sort. This is especially true if the single parent family lives in an apartment complex.
We made up three lists, green activities, not green activities and the third list were things that we called “nature affected” meaning they were outside but used man made items.
- Go to a park
- Take a walk together
- Let kids go outside and play with neighbor kids, but they have to play outside
- Ride bikes
- Climb trees
- Go fishing / hunting
- Go to the beach, play in the sand
- Climb a mountain or take a hike
- Look at the stars
- Go bird watching
- Collect treasures outside such as seeds, shells, sticks, etc.
Not green activities
- Computer/video games
- Watch movies
- TV watching
- Play a board game
- Cook together
- Read a book
- Family devotions
Nature affected activities
- Street hockey
- Shooting hoops
All three lists were on the board and at first the single parents could call up a lot of “not green” activities. They had to concentrate a little more on the green activities and the nature affected ideas seemed to slip in between the other two.
While none of the activities listed were bad, including the computer games, videos, etc. what they realized was the activities that were relaxing and stress reducing were the things the kids did outside. While team sports got rid of a lot of energy and they helped, they were not as relaxing as just spending uninterrupted time in God’s nature.
For the single parents who live in an apartment or are not able to let their kids go outside and play, it is important to know your community and be able to make suggestions of places where they can take their kids such as a park or hiking trail. Perhaps your church could construct a walking trail or provide a place where a single parent family could come for refreshing restoration.
Several years ago I got a frantic call from a single mom in Missouri. I had just been there speaking at a single parent retreat. Her son had come home from his dad’s and he was so mad he was almost raging. He was taking out his anger and frustration at his dad on his mom and his sister. I told her to tell him Miss Linda said to go outside and run around the house three times.
She said, “Really? But it’s dark and cold out there.” He was a healthy 11-year-old kid; running outside wasn’t going to hurt him. Plus they lived out in the country so no one would bother him. Then she was to call me back.
She called back in a little while and in amazement said, “He said it felt so good that he ran around the house a couple of more times.” She went on to say how calm he was. Now he could sit down and talk through his anger and frustration. In the future the mom was to give him permission to go outside and run around the house any time he felt stressed.
The reason I told her to say, “Miss Linda said” is because when a kid is upset with one of their parents it is hard for the other parent to get control. These kids will take out their anger and frustration on the parent that is in front of them. Using my name took the mom out of the picture so to speak. And because I had met this young man and developed a relationship with him, I knew he would be willing to do whatever it was I asked of him.
Sometimes it is just a matter of getting the kids outside. It might be a clear night with a bright moon or many stars shining brightly. It might be an early morning when the sun is first coming up over the horizon. It might be a time of sitting in a porch swing listening to the birds. It could be sitting on an upstairs balcony in an apartment complex, looking up at the sky and watching the clouds before school. It could be wandering around a grassy field looking for a four-leaf clover. Think in terms of these kids having a “nature-deficit disorder” and how you can make suggestions to relieve that disorder.
What are some other suggestions to help single parent help their children de-stress?