Updated: Jul 6, 2020
So let's do some real talk: this parenting thing is hard. Sometimes it is very hard. And when we're in the middle of a pandemic, phew! It leads to some exciting things, am I right? I'm talking the explosions, tantrums, and crazy that is unique to the amazing period I refer to as the soft years, ages 0-5, when our children's brains aren't fully developed yet but their desires sure are. And right now, in the reality that many of us are facing where there are conflicting pressures of work, parenting, homeschooling, finding a moment to breathe all in the same space can be pretty overwhelming.
So here is my secret to staying calm and collected, even have fun during this time: involve your children.
Kids are so very capable of everything we allow them to experience, learn, and understand. Not just in the kitchen, but in all things. That is how I have a 3yo who can blend as well as is starting to understand the foundation of multiplication. It's all in the little things we show them, the worlds we allow them into, and how we involve them in the things we do.
So involve them. Try to stretch yourself to allow this to happen. If you're struggling with this idea you are not alone. The perfectionist control freak in me is with you and hears you! But I encourage you, next time you find yourself in that moment of stopping your child from picking up that scissor/paintbrush/knife/[insert here!] also try to ask yourself where your comfort level is and why. Then ask yourself if it's really necessary that you prevent whatever is about to be. If it isn't, give it a go. Set your own boundaries around the freedom so that you can feel comfortable. But do involve them anyway.
So, now we're on board with involving our children, but how?
Here's my golden list of what will make your children truly part of this one moving complex machine we call a family:
Involve your kids in:
3. The household
So, first and foremost, involve them in your feelings. In your fears. Allow them to share their own and give them the space to feel accepted and safe. Ask if they have any questions and then do your best to share what you know and search together for the answers that you don't have. Give them time each day to share how it's going for them and give them five uninterrupted minutes. Stay curious and witness their thoughts and feelings. Encourage them with little cues like "tell me more" and "why is that" and "keep going." Then share how you are feeling, truly. Not the facebook pic but the real one from right before the click of your camera. Keep it real. Be honest. Be the true you. Your kids will so benefit.
Involve them in day to day decisions. Allow them to be part of the household, not witnesses or subservients to the choices made but instead, active participants. Ask them what needs and hopes they have. Figure out together how they can be met and added to the daily flow. Share your own hopes and needs as well. Decide together when you will get work done and when they will get their cuddles, how you will have time to rest and they will get to make some art or read books with you. Try to prioritize some together time, with no distractions, agenda or ultimatums every single day, if only for 20 minutes. That is what I am doing in my family fun breaks every weekday morning (and saving the videos on playlists for you to access) - and while I am so very happy to be here as a resource for all of you parents out there, I have a secret - they're actually for me and my family. :) They're my way to ensure that every single day no matter what I will carve out that time for my family to be together and share some connection and joy.
Involve them in your household with fun routines, chores, and tasks. Every kid LOVES to be given a task, even those that to us adults are boring or annoying. So let your children clean with you! They adore dustpans, brooms, spray bottles (but say only three squirts and show them how to point them!) and wiping things with a rag. Given the opportunity, I believe my daughter would go to town on cleaning the entire house. So in this current normal, every evening, my 3yo is in charge of spraying and wiping all of the knobs, handles, and light switches. We do this together and it calms and readies us for bed. It also keeps what's happening real and gives us a proactive way to keep ourselves safe.
She was also part of creating the flow of our day and is a constant sounding board for how our days are feeling. I ask her questions like "do you still like how the day is feeling?" or "is there anything you'd like to add or change?" and we adjust. As as our day goes on, she also helps me with different household chores like organizing the pantry, cooking, and cleaning. She has a job of watering our plants and sometimes she "cooks" in her play kitchen as I chop some veggies for batch cooking. She also knows that play has three parts: plan, play, clean up. Because she is a part of choosing which toys and activities will be part of her play rotation, she is also part of setting them up and so she knows exactly where everything goes. It also helps that we limit our play rotation to 10 items or less and present them in a beautiful way that encourages the desire to keep things just so.
Involve them in rituals. Each evening during dinner, we have a daily check in of highs and lows, and on Friday evenings, which are a special night for our family, we hold a gratitude circle too. Some other rituals include morning yoga and weekly Sunday hikes (at the moment limited to our local neighborhood but still grounding and lovely in all the best of ways) and our morning snuggles. Rituals are a talisman, an anchor for memory, feelings of safety and excitement of what to look forward to. When we can't control so much in our world, especially now, we can at least create little pockets of comfort in knowing what to expect at different points of our days and weeks.
In short, involve them in as much as you possibly can. Our children are sponges that are taking in all of the sights and sounds anyway. So we might as well make them real, true, and honest for them. We might as well let them nourish. And we surely should try to let them validate their experience and empower. When we do, the hard moments are cushioned by so much soft and become spread to fewer and farther in between.
Wishing you all the space to create, love, and BE with your loved ones today and every day.
If you would like to know more about how I help parents keep it real or want more information about my coaching services and Four Phase Methodology towards a Joyous Parenthood, visit here!
Sivanne Lieber is a parenthood coach and consultant for parents and caregivers of the soft years, ages 0-5 and beyond. She works with families to find the confident, calm, connected parenthood they deserve.