If your older child, teen, or senior citizen is driving you crazy it’s time to play Independence Idol. Giving those you nurture opportunities for personal freedom can be a challenge. I’ve learned from other parents and caregivers who deal with loved ones with autism to senility and how they help them have some personal freedom.
Independence Idol is tough competition so prepare those you nurture with the following ten independence exercises.
1. Choosing socks. Let even young children choose their own socks. You can narrow the choice down to two or three but in the end the child, teen, or elder should be able to choose the socks they wear no matter how crazy.
2. List every day tasks they can do. Expect action. Everyone needs purpose.
3. Practice skills. Tying shoes to making a bed need practice. Encourage the discouraged.
4. Set expectations high, but be realistic. They will reach higher. If loved one has difficulty tying shoes but they are capable if they practice. Give them five minutes to work on the task before you assist.
5. Keep regular hours for waking and sleeping. Allow loved ones to make choices and pay the consequences.
6. Encourage activities that stimulate the brain. Walking, taking care of pets, puzzles, word search, reading, coloring, singing, dancing, memorizing things . . .
7. Encourage service projects. For a two-year old–unloading the dishwasher or helping outside, teen–helping neighbor with yard work or working with local senior center, senior–smile, let someone help you, when you let others serve you they get the chance to grow and so will you.
8. Pick own cereal or ice cream.
9. Let them tell their story their way without interruption or correction. Ask questions after.
10. Encourage and facilitate new experiences that will benefit mind, body, or spirit of loved one. Learn to play a new game, take them to a class, purchase books and art supplies, visit your local library!
May you thrive in your independence this summer.