Many caregivers are also parents of young children. While it can certainly be overwhelming trying to provide for everyone’s needs, it is important not to miss all of the teachable moments that your caregiving can provide to your child.
Whether the person you care for lives in your home or not, the fact that you are a caregiver can help to teach the concepts of compassion, duty, loyalty and love. Here are some tips for using caregiving as a teaching tool.
The fact that you have taken on the role of caregiver is honorable. If, however, the duties associated with this responsibility are carried out with a measure of anger or bitterness, the lesson that you teach your child will probably be one that you don’t want them to learn.
It is great that your child will watch you bathing your elderly relative or going out late at night to bring them something that they need. But if you are complaining the entire time, THAT is what your child is going to remember.
Instead of teaching them to have compassion on those that need help, you will be teaching them that such responsibilities are a burden to try and avoid if at all possible.
Your attitude matters to the person receiving care from you. Care that is provided with a compassionate attitude can actually improve the quality of life of the one being cared for. Instead of being made to feel like a burden, you have the ability to let them know that you want to care for them, and that it is a privilege to be able to do so. Imagine the difference that can make in the person’s life.
Your attitude also matters to your children. Caregivers have the unique opportunity to show their children what compassion looks like on a daily basis. If you can instill this in their hearts, it is a virtue that can have a huge impact on the kind of people they will become.
Do not allow your own frustration to hinder the chance that you have to model compassion for your children.
Enlist the Child’s Help
In addition to allowing your children to SEE what compassion looks like, you should also give them the chance to see how good it feels to help another person. You can do this by finding ways to allow the child to help. Of course, how much they can help will depend on their age, but even the youngest children can be given small jobs to do such as bringing a plate of food or even just asking if there is anything that the person being cared for needs.
For older children, consider giving them a regular role in the caregiving responsibilities. You should also emphasize the importance of visiting with the person. Some children may be a bit leery because of the hospital bed and other “scary” things that might be in the room, but caregiving is a wonderful teaching tool to show them that everyone is the same, and everyone – no matter how old – needs love and friendship.
Again, it is your attitude that the children are going to mimic. If they see you acting with genuine compassion, then they are more likely to do the same.
Answer Questions Honestly
Children of all ages are sure to have lots of questions about your caregiving. Every single one of those questions is a teachable moment. Some questions that you might get are:
Is (the person) going to die?
Why can’t they go the bathroom themselves?
How come they don’t talk anymore?
How come you have to feed them like a baby?
Obviously, the exact questions will depend on the age of the child and on the level of care that is required, but use each question as a chance to teach life lessons. The best way to do that is to resist the urge to give quick, pat answers. Instead, pause for a moment. Think about the question and what possible lesson you could teach based on your answer.
Ideally, you will open a dialogue rather than just answering the question but this depends, of course, on your child’s response.
While you want to answer honestly, you also want to answer in a way that is age appropriate. This will not always be easy, but the lessons that you can impart are priceless.
Remember: Little Eyes are Watching
There is no doubt that being a caregiver is one of the hardest things that you will ever have to do. Even if you are one of the people who understand that it’s a privilege to provide such care to a loved one, the amount of work that is sometimes involved can be overwhelming. But it is important to push your own frustrations aside for one simple reason: little eyes are watching. Think back to your own childhood. What do you remember most? What your parents said or what they did?
The following quote is appropriate for caregivers who are trying to teach their children about love and compassion.
Who you are speaks so loudly I can’t hear what you’re saying. –Ralph Waldo Emerson
Children are much more perceptive than some think. They can tell when you are doing something out of an obligation or when you are doing it because you truly love and have compassion for the person.
Consider what you want those little eyes to see.
Caregiving for a loved one can be heartbreaking, frustrating and a host of other things. But it is also a necessary part of many people’s lives. Since it is something that needs to happen anyway, why not find the positive in the situation? For parents, one of those positives is having a chance for a hundred teachable moments every single day.
Remember, there may come a day when you will need your children to be your caregiver. The kind of care that you model for them today will likely be what they offer to you in the future.
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