What is unfolding at my son’s high school is a clear illustration of a spiritual truth: the need for regular periods of rest in our lives. From the earliest pages of the bible we find God instituting patterns of activity and rest – not just any kind of rest, but rest with the intent to engage in worship and community. The concept of Sabbath weaves its way through the Old Testament and the New, occupying a prominent place among the Ten Commandments and informing our understanding of Heaven. Despite its prevalence, few Christians understand or practice Sabbath as a regular part of life, and consequently, neither do their children. Christian parents bear the responsibility of teaching our children the value of rest, through our words and through our actions. Children don’t set the calendar in our homes – if they are overscheduled or sleep-deprived, the fault lies with us. How can we better discharge our duty of raising children to seek Sabbath? To value down-time to reconnect with God and family?
While I admire the high school guidance counselors’ optimism, fourteen is probably too late to start imposing boundaries on our child’s rest habits and schedule. We need a plan, and we need it early. How will we safeguard for our families the key Sabbath concepts of rest, worship, and community? Here are a few suggestions that have helped our family to honor God in our rest.
Late-night texting and TV watching, online chatting, surfing the web – all can rob a child of rest. Children between the ages of 7 and12 require a whopping 10-11 hours of sleep each night, an age range during which most acquire the electronics to rob them of it. Parents can guard their children’s rest simply by keeping electronics in sight. We made a rule in our home that no electronics are allowed upstairs: no TV’s, computers, phones, or games in bedrooms or rooms where their use cannot be monitored. Each night, those of us who have phones leave them in a spot on the kitchen counter. These measures give us accountability to each other, keep electronics as a shared rather than an individual privilege, and force our electronics to obey our family’s Sabbath priorities of rest, worship, community. Well-rested kids bypass many of the unsavory habits of their tired counterparts: fits, backtalk, forgetfulness, drama, isolation, and yes – anxiety and depression. Guarding your child’s rest actually gives them a running start at Christlike behavior, even during adolescence.
So many to pursue, so little time. Don’t be fooled: the proliferation of activity options for children is a reflection of our cultural affluence, not of a child’s need to be well-rounded or socialized. Gobs of money are being made off of our misplaced desire to expose our kids to every possible talent path. How can we choose activities for our family in a way that doesn’t compromise Sabbath principles?
Because the four Wilkin kids are extremely close in age, our schedule and our finances forced us to limit activities to “one or none” for each child. Not all families need to impose a limit this low, but it has taught us something our grandparents probably knew: children who participate in no organized activities at all still lead lives full of activity and joy. To many parents the idea of a child on no sports team, in no music lessons, at no club meetings is completely foreign and a little frightening: Won’t they get bored? Won’t they drive me crazy lurking around the house? Won’t they miss out on an NFL career and blame me? Or, my personal favorite: Won’t other parents think I’m a bad parent? I would answer all of these questions with “Maybe, but who cares?” As is often lamented, parenting is not a popularity contest. With that in mind, here are some good (and highly unpopular) questions to ask when evaluating which activity to pursue:
- Does it sabotage weekend down-time or worship?
- Does it sabotage family dinners?
- Does it sabotage bedtime?
- Does it pull our family apart or push us together?
- Is it an activity my child can enjoy/benefit from into adulthood?
- Can we afford it?
You ca finish the rest of the article at Jen Wilkin blog