Step Six: Getting Out of Survival Mode

Okay, we’ve had a week break from our series on Getting out of Survival Mode so let’s recap.  Step one was to Be Flexible. Step two was to Develop a Sense of Humor. Step three was to Be Open to New Things.  Step four was Don’t Discount the Silly Ideas.  Step five was Don’t Invest Too Much Time or Money on the Ridiculous.

Step six begins our practical ideas section and we start with Have Your Kids Help.  Here’s what I wrote in my original article:

“The Practical Ideas:

6. Have your kids help

Kids can be a big help to you and, generally, they LOVE helping mom out. They feel special and a feeling of accomplishment to help.  Little kids can get you a glass of water or bring you the laundry basket, or set the table.  Older kids can help the younger kids, do some of the housework, chores or even make dinner.  Teenagers can run errands, if they drive.”

There are really three parts to having your kids help when your family is in trial or you are struggling with chronic illness.

1) Children can and, in many cases, should help around the house and helping a loved one will teach them skills and give them a heart for others.

Having your children help around the house or with a loved one who is struggling with something is NOT child abuse as many in today’s society will try to tell you.  Back in the 1800’s that’s just how life was.  Everyone in the family had chores and most children grew up helping out with housework, field work (farming), and with the other children.  Just watch Little House on the Prairie and you’ll see little teens, Mary and Laura Ingalls, who stayed at home while their parents were away.  Most women got married and had children of their own at a very young age and nothing much was thought about it at the time.  My grandfather had to quit school in the 8th grade to go to work and help support his family.  It’s only recently when society began giving cart blanch to kids giving them nothing whatever to do besides going to school and playing with their friends.

Having your kids help around the house (assuming it means giving them age appropriate tasks with adequate direction and guidance) can actually be very beneficial for them.  They will learn how to do things for themselves so that, when they are adults, they will have a firm grasp on the life skills they’ll need to get along on their own in the world.

2) Kids should still have a chance to be kids so there is a danger in giving them too much to do or too much responsibility at a young age.

The danger comes in when children are given too much responsibility too soon.  Each child is different so each parent will have to decide what is age appropriate and what is enough responsibility for each of their children.  However, unless you are abusing your children by making them do what you can do for yourself or expecting them to do so much that they are not able to do their school work or are feeling pressure to carry more of the family responsibilities than they can reasonably do, this is not something you need to worry about.

I suggest that you discuss this with your children periodically to check in with them. See if they feel a burden or if they need to talk about their role or concerns about the family.  Sometimes there is no other choice, but other times there might be other options you may discover by discussing it with the entire family.  Even if there are no other options, just talking about it as a family can help to ease the burdens you all feel.

3) The battle inside you as you struggle with whatever trial you are in will frustrate you and make you feel guilty if you don’t get set rules and boundaries ahead of time.

My advice, after having decades of chronic illness and issues, is to decide what each family member should do, discussing it as a family and gaining support from each member, revisiting these responsibilities often as the kids get older or as your issues change, and then meeting those expectations as a family.

Now, that being said, let me say this.  Something just don’t need to be done. Some things can be made optional.  Some things will have to wait.  If you are not able to get to the laundry and cleaning the house, you can choose to do the laundry so everyone has clean clothes.  Let the housework slide for that week. Unless House and Garden are coming to take pictures of your home, what harm will it do to leave the dusting for a week?

Prioritizing the tasks can help you meet the needs of the household without having to stress or force a task that nobody is up to.  Some things just don’t really need to get done.  It’s better, sometimes, just to spend time with the family in a house that isn’t ready for the white glove test than to stress about getting the work done.

Either way, giving responsibility to your children can be good for them as well as for you.  Just make sure you open the lines of communication and discuss what needs to be done as opposed to what you’d really like to have done.  Then just have each member do what they can and sit back and enjoy what that brings to your family.


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