Do Less While Doing More.
When we think about how to schedule our kids we often think to ourselves they need to be well-rounded adults. To do this we make sure they're involved in as many activities as we can cram into their schedules.
As they get older we need to realize that when they do too much outside of the home their ability to connect with their families starts to break down. Take it from me I'm a single mom who works full-time and also has a blossoming side career.
I need to find ways to connect with my daughter on a daily basis to make sure she knows that I'm here for her and I want us to communicate. Sometimes it's hard for caregivers to say no.
For a moment try to think about what we're teaching our young people. Make a list of the 10 things that you want your young person to know in life.
We start teaching from the very beginning and say no when it's appropriate. That might mean saying ‘No, you can't play video games, you need to make dinner with me.” It might mean saying ‘No you can't do a sport and be in the school play and continue to play your violin.” Setting boundaries starts at a young age and continues through adolescence.
As caregivers, we have to start making sure that our young people know that we want to spend time with them. They also need to know that it's important to us as a family. What your family looks like and what mine looks like might be very different, but in any combination of small and big people, if you are a caregiver, you are also part of a family.
A goal is to teach your young person that we are going to do anything we can to make sure that they have downtime to communicate with us and to interact with other people in the family.
How to Do Less
This might mean that you set aside a couple of days a week to have dinner together
It might be while doing chores together, (in the same room)
It might mean that you make sure that there's an hour of time after homework
Maybe there is time before, during or after TV or media time.
Maybe while getting ready for bed
What you are looking for is some momentum. An hour that you are close to your young person and actively working on making sure there's an open line of communication.
Now because my posts are mostly about sex and sexuality I'm not saying that you need to talk to your kids about sex every night for an hour what I'm saying is that if you open the lines of communication.
Your goal is to know what they're into, what they're out of, and what they want to be. This will help you know what you need to talk to them about when the time comes.
Modeling behavior is the easiest way for your child to know that they're cared for.
Some topics you can work into these conversations with your young people:
- gender norms
- life stories
Consider the difference between:
- Telling a funny story while you work on chores together. Asking them if they need help with their homework or what they are struggling with at school.
- Working on your take-home work in an office, while a young person works on their homework in their bedroom. Checking on them once by asking them to clean their room on your way back to clean up from dinner.
Ask a student (grade 2-12) about when their parents talk about the following:
- If they've done their homework
- Have they done their chores
- Did they wash up
Option 1: They're going to all roll their eyes and talk about how their parents are nagging them.
Option 2: They answer with a shrug because they don’t do chores, homework and no one is checking on their personal hygiene.
The moment you as a caregiver change the mood and talk you are showing that you are interested.
Example: I'm washing the floor and they're not being yelled at because they're walking through it; instead they're walking washing the floor while you do something else in the same room maybe or in the next room. You chat or maybe you put on a soundtrack. Consider communication: maybe one night it's your music choice and the other night it is the young person’s.
Giving your time together a soundtrack opens up an opportunity to talk about lyrics with your young person and what's in the media.
Do Less: It is not about judging, or saying “this isn’t appropriate.” You can comment, get clarity and let your young person voice opinions about the content. Create a positive exchange.
When we slow down, stop doing too much, and make time for routines at our homes our young people can start to see what goes into adult life. You don't want to be sending confusing messages as a caretaker.
You want to make sure that your young person understands on a regular basis that you are there.
You are interested in communicating with them
They have a responsibility to take care of their life.
Even if you are not the primary caregiver if a young person that you care about needs structure, discipline, and communication you can provide that. You can help them do less, while doing more, whether you live in their home full-time or not.