Space for Children

As I mentioned last time, I don’t have a lot of space in my house. I like it this way because it keeps me on the straight and narrow in avoiding the acquisition of meaningless items that eventually end up as landfill. But sometimes I wonder if I’m imposing on my family unfairly, just because I prefer a simple and minimalistic lifestyle. I do try and explain how I’m trying to ensure we’re doing our bit not to ‘dump on the future’, particularly considering how much human impact has changed our earth in the last few centuries.

The trouble is, these days my daughters are loving their ‘things’ – I’m fairly sure there’d be some research out there explaining that this is a typical part of a child’s identity and personality development – and the environmental wellbeing of their world is just not rating quite as highly as rocks and crystals or supermarket collectables at the moment.

I try and find a compromise by negotiating with each family member a personal space which they have control over – to a degree, anyway. While I would love to hand over that responsibility completely, it wouldn’t be reasonable for me to expect my children to understand all the repercussions of their actions. I can’t quite stretch myself to indulge them in every possible life lesson with real life examples at this stage, so we still have boundaries such as no food in bedrooms to keep yukky pests at bay.

Another area I maintain certain expectations for is regularly organising and tidying belongings. While I would love my children to express themselves however they desired in respect to clothing and personal items, allowing their clean and dirty washing to merge with homework and wet towels on the floor for weeks is going to cost us time and/or money at some point down the track… not to mention considerable distress from the inevitable meltdown when said child realises everything has gone mouldy.

Often, space and time go hand in hand with these negotiations. While as a parent I make the effort to create an area (or ‘zone’ – apparently these are all the rage now) for the kids to use, unless I take the time to discuss with them both what my expectations are and what their intentions are, it doesn’t really work.

Homework can also be tricky in respect to time and space boundaries. Many families provide desks for their kids, usually in their rooms and we are no exception. But research has shown that children benefit most from completing their homework in a shared family space such as the kitchen bench or table, so I encourage the kids to do so as much as possible.

Challenges arise when I need to use the same space and time for other tasks – sort out the day’s lunchbox detritus, prepare dinner, catch up on bills etc – and my daughter wants both my focused attention AND to avoid onion peel staining her spelling list. While wishing I was Super Mum who had it all sorted beforehand helps a bit, back in the real world I try to establish small systems and routines, drawing on the concept of flow, to help support us all in our afternoon routines.

How do you make space (and time) for your children?

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