This blog post is for all parents. Whether you are a parent of a child with 0-20+ diagnoses, a parent of a 1 year old, or a parent of a 35+ year old, these are just a couple of strategies that can be modified to fit your situation.
Being a parent is truly the most difficult yet rewarding job in the world. Every parent wants the best for their child, but navigating the system can be confusing and daunting. Parents often wonder if they are doing the right thing. Parenting a child who has a disability can sometimes add additional barriers or worries. Frequently, parents ask us, “Will they live a meaningful life?” “What will my daughter do when my husband and I are no longer here?” “Will my child live independently?” and “How can my son find his people?” These are just a few things that all parents want for their children, but sadly these questions are not addressed early.
This brings up the question, “What are YOU doing NOW, to prepare and equip your child for a future of meaningful engagement?” While some may say that it is never too late to begin this process, the truth is, is that this concept should be addressed early and must be considered a priority. Implementing strategies early allows for your child to learn more, gain more experience, and “fail” (as all children do) with parental protection/ supervision.
While “failing” seems scary and has a negative connotation, failing is a huge part of learning. As a person makes a mistake and experiences small “failures, ” they eventually learn to modify their approach or behavior. By challenging individuals to critically think and re-evaluate situations, they become better able to problem solve and adapt to real-world situations. Examples of this include teaching your child the value of saving money vs impulsively spending. Rather than constantly, “giving in” to monetary or materialistic requests, implement a “work for allowance system.” This system should include consistent chores that are paid with a realistic salary to the time needed to complete the task ratio. By implementing a “work for allowance system,” and consistently encouraging your child to buy their own “extra” items or experiences, they will have improved critical thinking, a better understanding of the value of money, and the consequence of impulsive spending. Creating opportunities for small “failures” such as your child misplacing their recently earned, $5, translates to your child being less likely to do the same thing with $100 as an adult.
Intentionally setting your child up for success and independence early, allows for greater opportunities to scaffold, modify, and grade up/ down activities. This results in further capitalization on your child's potential. Of course, even as your child becomes an adult, strategies can begin to be used regardless of where you are in your parenting journey.
Below are 2 general strategies that address only a fraction of independent living readiness skills. With the help of iElevate, we can work to implement personalized strategies to reach your family’s goals.
1. Involve Your Child in the Kitchen: Ingesting nutrition is something everyone does and is essential to sustaining life. While cooking may not be everyone’s favorite activity nor is cooking every meal from scratch realistic, knowing how to be safe and functional around the kitchen is essential to independent living. It would be financially irresponsible to order from Uber Eats or GrubHub every day. Another consequence of eating every meal out is that they are likely not nutritionally balanced. Ultimately, bringing your child into a kitchen and including them in the process of cooking/ preparing food and cleaning up, exposes them to steps needed to be safe, and efficient later in life. Involving your child around the kitchen can be done at any age, to any degree, and with a child of any skill level. A few ideas on kitchen lessons include:
How to properly wash fruits and vegetables
How to clean countertops or dishes
Knife safety tips
How to make a balanced meal
Simple to more complex recipes
How to pre-heat an oven or frying pan
2. Involve Your Child in the Shopping Process: Similar to the reasons that it is beneficial to involve your child in the kitchen, the same is true for shopping. While shopping, we are faced with several temptations, questions, and choices. By involving your child in the shopping process, they will learn social norms and physical steps needed to buy materials. In addition, they can learn how to make educated choices when it comes to buying a product. Specifically, what should they look for when buying an apple or watermelon? Or, what are the benefits of buying the store brand mac and cheese vs the $3 box? These are important thought processes that should be explicitly communicated with your child. Here are some more ideas of lessons that can be taught while on a shopping trip:
How to use a self-check out register
How to use a grocery cart and where to put it when leaving
How to safely get to the store by using public transportation
What are ideal qualities in specific products
How do you budget a weekly grocery trip
When can someone decide to splurge on a self-care item
It is important to note that both of the above strategies are not “quick fixes.” Involving your child in any experience takes repetition, consistency, and time. Remember to explain your reasoning while you cook or shop and ask your child what they think/ what they would do and why. Eventually, once some of these skills are mastered, they can be graded up, by having your child independently cook a meal on a consistent schedule. This can be further graded up by then having them grocery shop using a given budget, etc.
If this blog sparked questions, concerns, or resonated with you, please reach out to Danielle Feerst OTR/L by clicking here to book a FREE 30 minute consultation. No matter where you are in your parenting journey, reaching out for guidance is the best way to ensure that your child is ready to engage in a meaningful life. Danielle Feerst OTR/L has several years of experience working with young adults who are working towards a meaningful life. Along with her Peer Mentors, Danielle and the rest of iElevate have several other ideas, experiences, and expertise on working with young adults with social emotional learning differences to promote living a fully engaged life. Our team works closely to personalize interventions to fit your unique situation. We do this to empower clients to reach their full potential. In addition, you can connect with us on our Facebook, Instagram, and LinkedIn. If you have any ideas for future blog posts, feel free to message us on any of our social media accounts or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org .
Written by Madison Gies, Peer Mentor/Coach, OTDS