I think it’s safe to say that 2020 held a number of unexpected setbacks for everyone on the planet. Within those setbacks, however, there have been opportunities for growth. I’ve seen this with my two boys. Since the pandemic and quarantine began, I’ve asked and expected more from my boys than I ever have. I also realized how important empowering kids is. They’re physically growing like weeds, and internally they’re at an age where they can handle responsibility. Trusting them to do more and advocate for themselves has been great for them. Here’s why.
Why it’s important
If the world didn’t know before, it certainly knows now. Moms and parents are superheroes. We’ve always worn a million hats in those roles, but the pandemic has certainly upped the ante. Moms and parents have been at home for most, if not all, of the entire day being professionals and guardians during the pandemic. We are doctors when the kids are sick. We’re entertainers when they’re bored. Then we become psychologists when they are sad and going through emotional turmoil. That switches when we have to prepare a meal or become breadwinners. It was a lot to do pre-COVID, but it feels impossible some days mid-COVID. Parenting is a full-time job with no shifts, lunch breaks or sick days. We’re always on duty. There are no boundaries, and that can be overwhelming.
Empowering kids around the home, simply put, helps to lighten our parental loads. Allowing kids to do some things for themselves, even if those things are small, takes SOMETHING off our to-do lists. It helps to stitch time, and time is the most precious commodity in our lives. Even if we have the time and energy to do something, the emotional labor of always having to think about and remember every little thing is mentally draining. If I can task my boys with several small chores or responsibilities, that’s fewer things I have to think about.
Also, empowering kids with home responsibilities not only benefits parents. It also gives kids a sense of autonomy. When you give kids small things to do, it gives them a sense of control. No, they can’t control the world around them. But given the opportunity, they can be responsible for something simple like the “movie time” selection each day. It can provide a small sense of stability and teach them that they’re capable and able to do important things. Moreover, it will reinforce the feeling that they are intelligent, which is important for building their self-image and self-esteem. You’d be surprised at the pride kids take doing something when it’s “their job” to do it.
What Ways Can Kids Help?
If you follow me on Instagram where I interact more via Stories, you may have seen one of my oldest son’s famous breakfast spreads. LOL! Every now and then Kingsley takes it upon himself to make breakfast for himself and his brother. That breakfast may consist of two different types of crackers and fruit. No, it’s not a perfectly balanced meal, but he feels good about what he “prepares,” and both of the boys enjoy it. So what if they don’t get every food group in one meal? They get nutrients and a few calories to help them through the morning, and Kingsley owns and takes seriously this responsibility.
Along similar lines, I also empowered my boys by teaching them how to begin their virtual classes each morning on their digital devices. While they may not understand every feature on the iPad, I did teach them how to connect to the necessary apps and log in to start their lessons. Sometimes they handle their own mornings with breakfast and then go to class. They feel like little men to each other, and I love it. It’s simultaneous support and empowerment for the entire family.
Also, throughout the day I set standards and time limits for activities my boys do. The catch? I give them the responsibility of setting alarms with our Amazon Echo. When the time comes to do an activity, I have one of them talk to Alexa to “officially” start the time for whatever they’re doing. I still determine the amount of time as the parent, but they feel empowered to set the alarm, and they take ownership of that. What’s more, they don’t really question the time frame at all. Small tasks like this are huge when it comes to empowering kids while they’re spending so much time at home.
Where to Begin?
If you’re a parent wondering where you begin to empower your little ones, here are a few suggestions. First, start small. I would never expect a four-year-old to take over a task like vacuuming a room. That’s unrealistic. Everyone knows how difficult it can be when you’re trying to get things done with a kid underfoot. But this could be a perfect opportunity to allow your kid to be your shadow. Maybe that’s having your child place cups on the table for dinner. Or, it could be allowing them to dry the reusable kiddie spoon or cup they used while you wash the rest of the dishes. Give them age-appropriate, manageable tasks they can achieve. This is the tip of the iceberg when it comes to empowering kids, but it can also be extremely encouraging.
The biggest thing I suggest to you, parents, is to let go of perfection. As a designer, I care a great deal about the aesthetic of a space. When I am at the helm of projects, I can make sure things are neat, in order, and perfectly placed. If I allow my kids to help with something, I accept that they aren’t going to do things the way I do them. You have to be okay with some things not being done your way. If you give them the responsibility of making the bed, know that the bed may look…like it was made by a young kid. And that’s okay! Let go of the idea of perfection while empowering kids. The lessons and benefits they learn and grow from will highly outweigh having things done with precision.
Your kids are indeed kids. However, they can also be helpers around the home during this time. Empowering kids has benefits that will last long after the pandemic is over. They will be better for it, and so will you. What can your kids do around your home to help themselves and you? I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments!