The Case for a Family Day of Rest

October 19, 2018 Updated: October 19, 2018

You’d think the idea that rest is important would be obvious to us—that we’d have the sense to take a break every once in a while and step away from the hustle, the grind, the notifications, and the striving; that we’d know enough to replenish our energy stores, to pause and reflect, to reconnect to our loved ones and ourselves, and to simply relax the mind and body.

You’d also think it’d be even more obvious that rest is important and beneficial to our children—that quiet and downtime and togetherness and space are critical to their well-being.

But it’s not obvious, is it? Not according to many of our actions, anyway.

What if we observed a day of rest every week? (Gasp!)

Of course, the idea of a day of rest is certainly nothing new. Even God rested on the seventh day, as they say.

Whatever your spiritual beliefs, there are many benefits to making a day of rest part of your family’s routine—for you, for your spouse, and for your children. You may just want to give it a try.

The Benefits of Rest

A blog post by Florida Hospital listed some of the benefits of rest, including improved mental function, improved weight management, improved heart health, and reduced stress.

Common sense and, likely, lived experience tell us that pushing yourself to work like mad or overstuffing your (and your family’s) schedule leads to burnout. Breaking up periods of great productivity with periods of true rest provides a rhythm and balance that is sustainable for the long term.

Author Alex Soojung-Kim Pang writes in his 2016 book “Rest” that “you get more done when you work less.”

“Rest is an essential component of good work,” he writes. “World-class musicians, Olympic athletes, writers, designers, and other accomplished and creative people alternate daily periods of intense work and concentration with long breaks.”

So if you’re thinking a family day of rest will interfere with your productivity and all of the things you need to get done, consider that it may actually enhance your results.

What’s more, a day of rest provides you with quality time with family, a buffer of time to think and reflect, a sense of renewal and perspective, perhaps fresh air and sunshine, and nutritious, home-cooked food, and simple joy.

Children Need Rest

When it comes to our children, it is all too easy today to sign them up for every activity and “opportunity” that comes across our radar. We don’t want them to miss out or be left behind their peers.

What is easily forgotten, however, is what they miss out on when they aren’t provided enough free time to just be children—to simply play, explore, think, connect with their loved ones, and develop the individual traits and strengths they were born with.

Kim John Payne’s book “Simplicity Parenting: Using the Extraordinary Power of Less to Raise Calmer, Happier, and More Secure Kids” provides perhaps the most comprehensive case for a family day of rest: “The pace of our daily lives is increasingly misaligned with the pace of childhood.”

Payne compares the way we’d care for a child with a fever to the way we should care for one who has been overscheduled and overworked. If your child has a fever, you slow down, “bring them close,” and stop all outside activity.

When they have a “soul fever,” as Payne puts it, we may tend to not recognize their need to similarly slow down. When taking a break, however, “simple pleasure they rarely have time for—getting out the paints, family stories, a building project—can occupy their attention while loosening their emotional knot,” Payne writes.

What’s more, taking time for rest provides children an example they can take into their own adulthood.

“A small period of downtime is a form of care, a way of being cared for. It’s true, you may be the one doing the caring now, and insisting on limitations that they may resist, but you are also beginning a pattern that they can continue for themselves and will serve them throughout their lives,” according to Payne.

Implementing a Day of Rest

Ironically, in the midst of our fast-paced, over-scheduled lives, it will take a bit of effort to actually implement a regular day of rest.

Communication Is Key

First, you need to discuss this new plan with your family and get everyone on board. Allow each family member to recognize the importance and benefit of a family day of rest and get excited about it.

Clear the Calendar

Next, you’ll need to decide which day each week will best work as your family’s day of rest. Likely you’ll choose a weekend day when you normally have fewer obligations. The typical Sunday day of rest may be your best bet.

Though the day of choice may be the least busy day of the week, you may look ahead and find that you do have some appointments or obligations scheduled on Sundays. Stick to your goal and cancel or renegotiate however many you possibly can.

Set the Parameters

Decide on some defining rules or traditions you’d like to establish for your family’s day of rest. For example, you may choose to disconnect from digital devices or gather at the table for a meal. Keep it simple.

Remain Flexible

As you begin to experience your days of rest each week, tweak what’s not working and double down on what is. Remain flexible and improve over time.

Let Go of Perfectionism

Of course, life can throw all sorts of curve-balls your way. Perhaps some weeks, a day of rest won’t be possible. Don’t despair when it doesn’t work out. Stressing about your day of rest is not the idea. You’ll get back on track next week, or just as soon as you can.

Follow Barbara on Twitter: @barbaradanza