Updated: Sep 5, 2020
Creating a strong Rhythm within your Safe Haven
What is Rhythm?
The Law of Rhythm states that the energy in the universe is like a pendulum. Whenever something swings to the right, it must then swing to the left. Everything in existence is involved in a dance... swaying, flowing, swinging back and forth. ... Everything goes through cycles, yet everything has a rhythm or a pattern.
We as human beings are rhythmic beings. If you think about it there is the rhythm of our bodies, we have a heartbeat that starts soon after conception and beats a steady rhythm that stays with us for our entire human lives until we die. There is the rhythm of our pulse and the rhythm of our breath and as humans we are deeply affected by the rhythm of nature that is all around us all the time. The moon has a strong rhythm as it goes through it various cycles which also affects the tides. A cyclical nature affects women's bodies reflecting the menstrual cycle. The yearly journey of the earth around the sun is what creates seasons and we feel seasonal rhythms. For example in the northern hemisphere when the days are colder and the nights are longer we feel a need to go inward to hibernate and hunker down, we feel the need to eat more comfort foods. And then as the days lengthen and get warmer and the sun returns we feel more inclined to be outdoors and to be more active with ourselves and our bodies. We may also feel like more social beings around this time. These are periods of
“in breath” during the winter and “out breath” in the Summer. Children are especially sensitive to rhythm and cyclical changes and the more we are aware of this, as parents the more we can really help them. Rhythm is your friend if you are a parent or teacher. Your days will be easier if you have a rhythm. Your days will flow.
Kim John Payne explains Rhythm perfectly:
"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.
A rhythmic home life has a pattern and flow. It's cadences are recognisable, and knowable, even to the youngest member of the family, because the primary patterns, daily, weekly are so well established, life's other sequences - seasonal, annual-fir smoothly over well - worn grooves. The tempo of a rhythmic daily life is described by a child, would sound something like this. " This is what we do on a school day mornings. " Before we leave the house we..." " When I get home from school I... " " When my mum or dad starts dinner I." " Before bed on winter evenings, we love to..." " The thing I love about Saturday mornings is... " When one us us is sick, we always, " The special thing we do someone's birthday is coming up is " We are connected by the things we do together, there is regularity, consistency to what we do as a family."
How do we create more Rhythm in our day?
Firstly take a moment to think about a young child who is unable to read tell the time or read a calendar yet. When life is unpredictable and they have no idea about what to expect. It can be really stressful and confusing for them and can make children feel anxious.
So I will give you an example A child is busily and happily playing at home and suddenly Mum says come on we have got to pick up someone from the airport and we got to get shopping on the way back and we got to do this that the other. Get your coat and shoes on let’s go.
A child in this situation may feel that their play (which is of great importance) has been disrupted and may well feel upset this and rightly so.
Also what is an airport, where is that and what happens? I've never been there. Where are we going? This in itself could be anxiety provoking in itself and could result in a tantrum or shouting and becoming upset, and refusal to do as you have asked.
Having a strong Rhythmic life especially helps young children to feel secure. They know what is coming, it also helps them with their own feelings and the feeling of security. The child 0-7 years is imitating everything around them. So providing a strong, consistent rhythm also helps the child to feel more connected and when you lead by example doing these same things day in day out with a flow, they learn through repetition.
So for a moment let’s take a look at what a rhythmic day would look like?
The more you can plan ahead and schedule regular and irregular things that happen at the time of day for example, what time we gt up, making beds, getting dressed, then we eat breakfast, then depending on the age of your child it might be time to go to school or play time or if you are home educating it might be a morning nature walk or a group, or doing something at home. Then there are things like snack time, lunch time, nap time, story time etc and time to prepare for dinner, and clean ups followed by family time, bath time, stories, bedtime etc
The more we can plan ahead and decide what happens when and what is a followed by which activity the more predictable life becomes for a young child, the more secure they feel, and also the more confident they feel because they know what happens next. They are able to feel secure and relaxed. There is also a rhythm to the week as well. So a weekly rhythm might look like Monday is washing day. Tuesday is go to the library, Wednesday is clean out the rabbit hutches, Thursday is shopping day and Friday is baking day and so on.
Like wise you can also plan meals you can have a weekly rhythm of meals which might be Monday soup day, Tuesday pasta day, Wednesday roast dinner and so on.
It can really help young children feel secure and can also be helpful for the shopping too. When we think back to the child who has no concept of time it can be helpful to say things like it’s washing day today or soup day and again gives them a concept of time which they can understand. What does Thursday mean? It is a word to them that doesn’t hold meaning but if you say it’s baking day. It makes more sense to a child. And so from this it can give children the support to grasp the days of the week and what happens within them. It is much more meaningful to the child.
When there is a strong predictable rhythm to the week and the seasons too children have a great sense of security and it allows the days to go much more smoothly and they will feel content and happier.
How does Rhythm fit into all the job that need to be done?
Rhythm fits into the everyday things that get done around the house. I like to call cleaning etc purposeful work, it is work that holds a purpose. Children can be very much apart of the purposeful rhythm so for example on a Monday is it washing day at our house and my son hangs out the washing alongside me, later on his purposeful work is folding all of the towels and he takes times and dedication into this purposeful work. Children love using brushes, shovels etc (in a size that allows them to use them) and will happily wash the window with a spray bottle and cloth, happily wipe a table or brush up the crumbs. They want to be a part of the work with them, do not discourage them, give them something to help. They will imitate you which also comes forth in their play. It is only made into a chore when you make them do something. When it becomes purposeful it changes to doing work with a purpose.
Children are not going to do a perfect job, allow them to do what their current skills are, and just allow them to be next to you and imitate you in their own way,they will learn and are always learning.
Children are very capable and love real work, work and play are one and the same for a young child. A child age 3 or 4 can easily set the table, they will happily sweep after dinner. It is in how we present to them this work that is of importance, they will happily work alongside you. Let them.
They can also help peel and chop veg alongside you as you as cooking. They may do a little and then go off and play in their own way, allow them to do what they can and thank them for helping prepare dinner. All of this is part of Rhythm in your home.
What about when unpredictable things crop up?
Now of course there will sometimes be unpredictable things in life that do happen like having to rush off somewhere that needs to be done and wasn't factored in and in these situations if you know that tomorrow you have to do something that you wouldn't normally do and is not normally in your Rhythm then you can let you child know ahead of time so it might something like "Tomorrow we usually go to the library but mummy has to take a trip to the airport to pick a friend up, it will be a long trip but we’ll stop for a break so can have a run around and go to the toilet and we will pack a picnic." " We might have to wait for little while but we can sing songs and tell stories in the car. You can bring a favourite toy with you and some colouring too." We must think here about our expectations of young children. We cannot expect little children to be sat in a car seat strapped in for hours. They need to move, so factor in a child's basic needs or of course you will end up with inevitable upset and frustrated little one.
It will bring much less anxiety to the child she/he won’t feel so disrupted and will have an idea that you are doing something different but has an idea of what that will be. They are less likely then to respond with a tantrum or frustration because they feel insecure.
What if our Rhythm doesn't feel Rhythmic?
Rhythm runs deeper than routine. Routine feels more like something that is rigid and inflexible whereas Rhythm is changeable and adaptable to your own personal and families needs and requirements.
For example you might find that your child settles into play at home better when they have had plenty of time for movement outside. I know this can be the case for us at home. We often have our morning walk/bike ride not long after breakfast.
I encourage you to write down what you do on a typical day and see what is working and what are the times of the day that are a struggle?
One example for me is that we all need to the in breath and the out breath, so our daily walk would be our out breath and then when we get home the in breath would be snuggling up with a pile of books.
We then get on with purposeful work the out breath and then come together again for lunch.
Later on in the afternoon we need to take a rest and a relax and we take time to create a lovely space of calm.
We need those lovely out breaths but then we need to balance that with the lovely secure calm in breaths which create more calm and connection too.
The beauty of Rhythm is that you make it your own and you try things out to find the right Rhythm that works for your family. Rhythm can change as you change and your children grow. Some of the things will always stay the same
The key to remember is that Rhythm is your friend, it is not rigid, it is flowing. The day flows from one moment to the next. It doesn't mean that life is perfect. It does however help you to have more secure and connected relationships knowing what comes next in a natural way.