Sharing the Load

Sharing the Load
In my last post, I talked about how parents can work a little much needed self-care into our existing rhythms. Now, let's talk about how our kiddos can help with this, while gaining some practical life skills. 

My daughters Gemma* and Linda* are 8 and 5, respectively. I'm going to give you my #1 tip for seeing to their unique needs when we aren't at home. 

They pack and are responsible for their own go-bags!

That's right- they share the load! 

My kids have a list of things they need to put in their go-bags every time we leave the house. My daughter Gemma is a slight exception. She has a laundry list of sensitivities and allergies, so I did help her to pre-pack certain things that are always in her bag: various allergy meds (plus a written emergency plan), hand sanitizer, hand soap, lip balm, cleaning wipes, and insect repellent. These are all safe items that she uses and doesn't share, so that she is less likely to have a reaction when we go out.

Gemma and my other kiddo Linda have a shared list of stuff that they both pack before we leave the house. They pack their phones, headphones, tablets, water bottles, snacks, sunglasses, and screen-free activities (usually a pen and notebook) in their bags before we leave the house. For the most part, they are each responsible for their own bags, and are expected to carry them. 

Linda is the exception here. She has a physical disability that causes her to be unable to walk for long periods of time. When she's in her pushchair, I store her bag in the basket below her seat and when she's in a carrier, I put her stuff with mine and carry it. 

It might not seem like it, but the items on the shared list directly impact how successful our outing will be. The list takes into account hunger- snacks, thirst- water bottles, noise sensitivity- noise reducing headphones, light sensitivity- sunglasses, and boredom- tablets/phones/activities. These are the top things that trash our days away from home when we aren't prepared.

If your kiddos are able, I highly recommend putting them in charge of their own bags. Start small with a mini backpack or lunch box filled with a snack and a drink. Gradually work them them up to more responsibility. Doing this will lay the foundation to take part of getting everyone ready off your to-do list, while simultaneously helping your children to be more independent. Having this small responsibility will give them pride and empower them as well.

See? Self-care for everyone, while being mindful of everyone's needs! 

*If your children aren't physically able to help with prep, do yourself a huge favor and keep a list on your phone, as well as a prepacked go-bag near the door.

To get your kiddos to share the load, they're going to need tons of help at first. The process might look something like this:
-You get the snack and drink into the bag, but your kiddo carries it.
-You verbally ask your kiddo to put the prepared snack and drink into the bag. Your kiddo stores the bag in the pushchair.
-You give your child a list (using words or images), ask them to prepare the snacks, and pack the bag.  
-Your kiddo has mastered prepping the snack and packing the bag, so you task them to add a toy to the bag. 

I hope seeing the process broken down into tiny steps is helpful! Honestly, if I had read something similar when Gemma was a toddler it would have been immensely helpful. I couldn't see the process back then and had unrealistic expectations. Now, things go smoothly when we're trying to get out the door most of the time. 

If you missed the last couple of posts, I shared an amazing resource in the form of a community. This inclusive group of parents is online, and they are a welcoming and fantastic wealth of information about parenting kids with complex needs. Please join in- we'd love to have you! All you have to do is click the image below.