Does your Family do Down Time?
by Mark Brandenburg MA, CPCC
There is an old zen koan that says, “don’t just do something, sit there.” It has wonderful
application to family life today. We’ve created the most overscheduled and busiest society in
history. Our kids are moving from one activity to another, and they seem to have more schoolwork,
more choices, and more pressure than they ever have before.
My work with kids in the last decade has shown me a snapshot of the life of many of today’s kids:
Being involved in a number of different activities outside of school, a huge increase in the
intensity of many of these activities, having many hours of homework each night, and getting far less
sleep than they should for someone their age.
While having a busier life with more responsibility isn’t always harmful for kids, what
is harmful is the lack of “down time” that kids have. Kids need to recharge their batteries just
as adults do. In fact, they need to do it more. And when stress builds up in kids and they aren’t
allowed to “do nothing” with enough regularity, problems start to occur.
Effective fathers take a long look at their kids’ lives and see what the big picture is. Kids may
often take on too much in their lives if you let them. It may be because their friends are doing
it, or because they enjoy a number of different activities in their life.
But it may not be serving them well, and this is where fathers need to step in and limit the busyness
in their kids' life. In cases where a child absolutely thrives on a busy schedule and is happy
and healthy, this needs to be recognized as well. More often the child wants to do more than is healthy
How does a father help their children have some “down time” in an incredibly busy world? Here are
• Show your kids from an early age that you know how to have down time yourself. Lounge around the
house at times, or have a regular “kick back and relax” time at your house when your kids are
• Explain the benefits of down time to your kids and let them know that it’s a very important part
of having a healthy life.
• Take a good, hard look at your child’s schedule and make sure that it will be manageable. Make
sure that a difficult school schedule doesn’t happen at the same time you decide to put your
child in three new after-school activities. Review the schedule of teams: how much travel is there,
how many practices a week, what else is involved in being on the team?
• Make family time sacred and make it a big part of your “down time.” A family dinner is a
wonderful time for the family to relax, recharge, and reconnect. Unplug the phone if you have to,
and try not to compromise in having the whole family present.
• Don’t criticize your kids for hanging around and “doing nothing.” If they do nothing consistently,
a discussion is warranted, but in most cases, kids are just doing what they need to do.
• Try to avoid having TV as the source of much of your down time. TV doesn’t recharge a child’s
batteries as well as things like reading or drawing. When kids watch a lot of TV, they’ll become more
restless and less active at the same time. Encourage activities at home that will keep them engaged but
away from the TV.
Providing “down time” is one of the best things fathers can do for their kids. Teach your kids
that most of their best ideas will come to them during “down time.” Teach them that being busy all
the time takes a big toll on your enjoyment and your health. And know that you’ll be more
successful at providing it if you educate them about it early in their lives.
Do your kids a favor by “living” down time and teaching it. Remember that there are times when it
helps all of us to “just sit there.”
Mark Brandenburg MA, CPCC, coaches men to be better fathers and husbands. He is the author of “25
Secrets of Emotionally Intelligent Fathers”
Sign up for his FREE bi-weekly newsletter, “Dads, Don’t
Fix Your Kids,” at
This article provided by the Family Content Archives at: http://www.Family-Content.com
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