Supporting Your Child’s Independence
As a parent, your biggest job is to help your children grow into well-adjusted adults. From the moment they learn how to self soothe as infants, you are passing on lessons, big and small, that encourage healthy autonomy.
In Slate’s “The Value of a Mess”, writer Jessica Lahey clearly lays out some of these lessons and gives parents a gentle reminder regarding the value of chores. The article starts with the story of a mom who is in a car accident and realizes in that moment all the small details that her family would need to know in order to stay afloat. Knowledge regarding household chores regarding self care, home care, and overall scheduling and organization are absolutely crucial lessons. Sometimes children need time and space to learn and make mistakes with while they are still under their parental care.
The Necessity of Emotional Lessons
As important as knowing how to fix a toilet is, what Lahey leaves out of her article are the very important emotional lessons that parents and caregivers are responsible for passing down to kids. In my NYC therapy practice, a big part of all parenting therapy and therapy with kids is finding out what lessons kids don’t have regarding their emotional health and helping fill in the blanks.
One of the best examples of a needed emotional lesson is what to do with anger. Anger is healthy, anger is natural, and everyone gets angry. Yet what to do with feelings of anger is another story. Anger often gets a bad rap and is seen as a destructive force.
The Parent as Emotional Role Model
Whether you realize it or not, you are modeling for your kids how to deal with emotions in how you deal with their own internal experience. This includes not just how you react when you feel frustrated or hurt but the lessons also involve attitudes towards emotion. Expressing discomfort or judgment with your children’s or your own emotional experience can inadvertently model that emotions are something to be ashamed of. It can also teach kids to internalize negative messages about themselves and adversely affect their identity and self worth.
So for all you parents out there, be sure to take a page out of Ms. Lahey’s book and teach your kids self sufficiency with chores. But don’t forget the incredibly important emotional lessons that are needed for them to grow into healthy, well-adjusted adults.