By Lisa Hamel
Have any of you ever asked your kids to do something that you don’t know how to do yourself? This happens on a daily basis now when I ask them to do their math homework! When they were babies, I expected them to nap. What I didn’t understand was that the ability to quiet and rest is actually a relational brain skill. And we cannot teach what we do not have ourselves. Chris Coursey goes into detail on the 19 relational brain skill and how they form us in his book, Transforming Fellowship.
As a new mother, I can’t tell you how many times my friends suggested I take a nap. Here’s the thing, I didn’t know how to nap. I couldn’t wind down during the day. As busy mom’s, many of us aren’t good at resting. By resting I don’t mean staring at your phone or watching TV. I mean intentional rest. And like I said before, we cannot give our kids what we don’t have. My sons were not good sleepers. My older son had a sleep disorder and would be up all night talking about airplanes and green beans. I would wake up in a rush of adrenaline and be super frustrated because he just wouldn’t sleep! Now I know that infant sleep methods are probably THE most controversial parenting topic around and I’m not going to tackle that today. But I will tackle this concept of rest and chances are, you’re not getting enough….
What is Rest?
Rest is not being lazy. It is not spacing out on a screen. Those things might be called relaxing but they aren’t true rest. Rest is an intentional act of checking in with yourself. Breathing deeply. Perhaps meditating on some scripture. Rest is slowing down and trusting God for all that isn’t accomplished in those moments. It’s not pushing yourself or others so far that they are overwhelmed! Rest is a pause or “time out” to get feelings under control.
Why We Need Rest?
I don’t think I can overstate the importance of sleep. It changes everything when you are well rested. Rest helps us manage stress. Imagine taking a calculus test when you haven’t slept in three days. We need rest to think straight. We need rest to be at our best. It took us quite a bit of time, but eventually we learned that a rested kid rests well. God designed every human on this planet with a nervous system and we are in a constant dance of looking for rest-(low energy) and joy (high energy.) More on that in another article…..
Even if you’re a high energy person consider that:
God rested. Genesis 2:2
Elijah rested. I Kings 19
Jesus told us we would find rest for our souls. Matthew 11:28-29
So what does rest look like at different stages in child development?
How We Rest?
As babies, we all needed naps. Being awake for 12+ hours was just too much for us. Our systems would shut down and we would sleep out of complete necessity. As we grew older we would nap maybe twice a day, then once a day and then we could manage an entire day. But just because we can stay awake for 16 hours straight doesn’t mean our brains don’t need a break.
We are living with an unprecedented amount of busyness in our lives. As parents, it’s our job to model for our kids how to navigate this crazy terrain. One of the biggest family-building things we can do is honor each other’s need for rest. When you teach your kids to rest, you are teaching them a skill for life. Research has shown that the inability to slow down and rest is strongly linked to mental illness later in life.
The harder it is for you or your child to rest, the more you need it!
Making of a home of Rest.
In our home, after our boys dropped their naps we instilled a daily quiet time. Every day we took an hour to rest. Rest was not TV time. It was time in their room alone. We used a time timer for this period. You can buy one here. Quiet time was all about self-management. This served many purposes. It taught them to problem solve. If they couldn’t get their toy to work, they had to move on to something else. They always had multiple options available to them in their rooms. If they asked mom for help about something that wasn’t a dire emergency, the hour of quiet time would start over. Now if you have a child with ADHD or one who is highly energetic, you may need to start with just 15 minutes and then gradually move up. During quiet time, I would also rest myself. Even just 5 minutes with my eyes closed and breathing deeply would re-set me for the day. We all need “time-outs’ in our days when it just gets to be too much.
If you are a working mom and you can’t bear to be away from your kids for an hour on the weekend, try quieting together. Snuggle on the couch and read. This kind of quieting can actually bond you in a special way. You see, rest builds trust. This means you might need to say “no.” You might need to leave a party earlier than you would like because you are honoring the needs of your family. Being busy doesn’t equal being significant.
As a mom I’ve made plenty of mistakes in this area. The bottom line is that our brains need rest to relate to each other in healthy ways. What if you slow down and trust that whatever you don’t get done in this 5 minutes of rest is actually under God’s control? What if your slowing down makes you more aware of how God is providing for you and working on your behalf? Ask the Prince of Peace this question, “If I choose to rest instead of ______________, what am I afraid of? I know it takes courage to slow down. But His yoke is easy and His burden is light.
“You will keep in perfect peace those whose minds are steadfast, because they trust in you.” Isaiah 26:3
Lisa is currently "SAHM-ing." In the past she has been a pastoral counselor, a singer, a music director, and an accountant! She lives in a multi generational home in the Pacific Northwest with her two boys, her amazing husband, and her mother. She is a coffee snob and a health nut who loves to dance like no one is watching. Check her out on Instagram and Facebook!