Oof! My Kid Is Constantly Asking for Help
Plus: Should you ease up on chores when kids are struggling?
Greetings, all! Today I’m answering two reader questions I’ve gotten over the past few months. If you have a question you’d like me to address in a future newsletter, please submit it here!
Should I Ease Up On Chores When My Kids Are Struggling?
Q: We have various expectations of the kids (unpack your lunchbox, put your shoes and backpack in the mudroom after school, put your laundry away 1-2x week, tidy up your rooms, and for a while there, they also helped set and clear the table). But I’m going through a divorce, and in all of the transitions of these past few months…they have pretty much all gone by the wayside.
So my question is: When you have kids going through a rough time or just transition-challenged kids in general, how useful is it to die on these smaller mountains of “put your laundry away?” Especially on busy weekdays it often feels like there is barely even time, let alone emotional bandwidth! But I also don’t want to raise spoiled kids.
A: First of all, sending love as you all go through this big transition.
There is no one right answer to this question, and what’s best will depend on your kids and your gut feelings. But I do have a few thoughts.
It’s totally reasonable to ease up on expectations and structure when kids are going through tough times. We want kids to know it’s okay to take care of themselves in the ways that they need when they are struggling.
That said, one of the reasons changes and transitions are so hard for kids is because they break routines. Routines — and daily structure in general — give kids a sense of comfort and control, because they know what’s coming when. (Kids have very little control over their lives, so they take it where they can get it!) So keeping daily structures and expectations in place may actually help your kids right now. They may think, “If I still have to make my bed every morning, then clearly not everything is tumultuous and changing and I’m going to be okay.” (Also, just having a clean room and a made bed can be comforting, too!)
We also don’t want to teach our kids that it’s totally fine to abandon all responsibilities when things get a little rough, because let’s face it — life is full of surprises and we want our kids to learn how to habituate to change and be resilient.
Here are a few ideas. You could allow some flexibility now but set boundaries. Maybe you say, “I know it’s been rough with so many changes going on, and we’ve let chores slide for a while as we get settled into our new routine and figure stuff out. But starting on December 1, we’re going to start them up again.”
Or, if you think more routine might actually make them feel more settled — this will probably be the case if your kids sometimes struggle with anxiety — start reincorporating chores now.
Consider giving them some choices in terms of which tasks they have to do or when they have to do them, because a sense of autonomy can help kids feel more in control, too. This might be best accomplished through a sit-down meeting at a neutral time. And if your kids have trouble remembering to do their tasks, try a record-keeping mechanism, like a white board on the fridge with a daily task check-list. Good luck!
Why Is My Kid Constantly Asking for Help?
Q: Do you have any tips/resources on how to respond to a kid who asks for help on things they are learning to do/can do? Like getting dressed, shoes, etc. Signed, a mama who loves to help but has a kid who needs to learn to do the damn thing.
A: I can so relate to this. My 12-year-old sometimes asks me for help with things that I’m pretty sure he learned how to do six years ago. Does he think I’m his personal servant? Actually, don’t answer that question.