We all have some free time, but do we take advantage of it? What do we do in our free time? Is it screen time? Is it book time? Is it just staring into space time? (don’t laugh as I do this sometimes!)
For different people “free time” can mean different things. I also like to think about free time as down time – time that is different from the regular structure of our day-to-day routine and stresses that we all go through. No matter your age or stage of life you are at, this time is sacred and important for all of us.
I always feel that I don’t have enough free time, but as I look at the course of my day and what I do, I realize that I do have free time available to possibly be doing something more constructive or self-care than I actually do. If I stopped looking at my phone, that would give me more free time than I actually need!
For people on the autism spectrum, free time is very important. Since structure is so important in the course of their day, it is just as important to have some time to do the things that they want to do – whatever that may be and whatever that may look like.
Sometimes I can get frustrated with both of our children as I may not understand why they are doing something (or why they are not for that matter), but then I have to take a step back and realize that they are allowed to have that time where they do whatever they want to do. It’s not my place to dictate what they do in that time, just as I wouldn’t want someone to dictate to me what I do in my down time. It has taken me years to figure this out though, so I hope if you are reading this, it doesn’t take you as long as me to figure this out!
I have realized that as I watch our children, how much calmer and centered they are when they have this time to do whatever they want. I notice a lot of stress, tiredness and tenseness, especially after a long day at school and when they come home each of them copes differently and wants to do different things to get relaxed and forget about their day or perhaps just to have a break from their day. In the past I never realized how important these breaks were for our children.
I believe that for people on the autism spectrum, that have to work sometimes 100 times harder to achieve simple goals, need to be able to take advantage of their free time and they need this time to be able to get back to things that they want to, or things that need to get completed. For our children, they can’t function well unless they take their rest breaks or have the down time to re-connect to people as people in general are exhausting for them.
I have to remind myself every day of the importance of this time and I have to be aware when trying to deal with each of our children that I don’t contribute to some sort of anxiety and stress by not respecting their time.
What will you do with your free time today?