I’d like caregiving to become a natural part of what my family does together. How can we involve our children in caregiving? How can we especially involve teenagers?
To respond to this question, I first want to tell a story. Nancy Vandewater is a member of my church family and she told me several years ago the following story. I believe it embodies the keys to ensuring that our children will grow up to be compassionate caregivers:
A short time ago I was to spend the day with my nine year old granddaughter, Emily. When I picked her up she excitedly asked what we were going to do. She and I were anticipating a nice “grandma day” with just the two of us. I told her that first we had to pick up Doris a 97 year old member of my church and take her to the doctor.
Emily said, “Oh boring!” and I just knew I was in for trouble. She became very quiet–I thought that she was sulking–and then she said, “Grandma, why do you do that kind of stuff?” I told her that her bracelet that says W.W.J.D.–What Would Jesus Do–was why I was doing it. Taking an elderly lady to the doctor would be what Jesus would do if He were here, and when we do it, it’s like He’s doing it through us. She didn’t say anything and I figured that one went right over her head.
When we got Doris to her doctor, she also needed a hip x-ray. What was going to be an hour job turned out to be over 4 hours! BUT Emily really surprised me. She pushed the wheel chair, opened doors, talked and read to Doris–completely charmed both of us.
On the way home Emily said that she really had a “fun day.”
Nancy, the grandmother, ended the story by saying, “You never know when special opportunities come one’s way.”
A wise person in the book of Proverbs states, “Train a child in the way he should go, and when he is old, he will not turn from it.” So, if you want your child or grandchild or niece or nephew to be sensitive caring persons when they grow up to be an adult, I think that there are 2 important things you must do: (1) Like the Grandma in the story, model caregiving. Talk about it and then let them see you actually caring. It is really true, “Actions speak louder than words.” Then (2) Involve them in actual caregiving; for example, children are welcomed guests at nursing homes. My mother lived in a nursing home for 6 1/2 years and as I visited her each week I noticed that whenever a baby or a small child arrived, everyone was energized and excited. Everyone wanted to touch and talk to him or her. Frequently my two little nieces would come with their mom to visit Grandma Wolfe. They brought smiles and pleasure to her and to others. They massaged her hands with hand lotion, read to her and pushed her in her wheelchair.
In our caregiving handbook, The Compassionate Congregation, a woman says, “Children are so refreshing, honest, and real. Encourage your children and grandchildren to care for others by suggesting that they draw a picture, write a poem, learn a song, make up a skit, or buy a little gift. When my eight-year-old son died, one of his friends came to my door with a present. He didn’t say anything. He just handed me a picture of a horse. I don’t know why he chose that picture, but it must have been very special to him, and for 21 years it has been special to me.” Rickie Waldron
Another way to involve children in caregiving is by including them when you are preparing meals to give to those who are going through a difficult time. There is a wonderful website called Take Them A Meal (takethemameal.com) If you go to their website and scroll down, there is an article on “7 Ways to Include Children in Meal Taking.” One idea included in that list is help your child make this dessert, “Sealed with a Pretzel Kiss”:
Ingredients: Pretzel Waffle Squares, Hershey Kisses and M&Ms
(1) Place the pretzel squares on a baking sheet, and top each one with Hershey Kiss, (2) Bake for 3 minutes in a 200 degree oven. (3) Press an M&M into the center of each Hershey Kiss. Refrigerate for approximately 14-20 minutes. Yum! (Also try using peanut butter kisses.)
For more information on involving children in caregiving, follow the links below.
Part 1: How can we involve our children 10 years and younger in caregiving (above).
Part 3: More ideas on how families can be involved in caregiving together. Click here
Do you have a caregiving question? Please Ask Karen! If you have additional thoughts and comments on this topic please comment below.