FEEDING, DRESSING, BATHING, HAIR BRUSHING, HANDWASHING, NOSE-WIPING, FACE WASHING…In the early years, these times are often referred to as caregiving times as the parent (carer) usually provides physical care to the child’s needs. How many times a day do you find yourself doing any one of these? Sometimes in the whirlwind of life, these can easily become ‘task-doing’, as we rush or distract our children from getting it done, as they may be resistant. Thinking about these moments again as providing care can actually boost mutually enjoyable connections throughout the day.
Tips to put the connection and care into caregiving times:
1. Provide your undivided attention
Slow-paced, tender touch and meaningful speech during these times communicate to the child that they are valued and fills up both of your emotional cups.
2. Saying what you will do before you do it.
By talking through each step, the child gains from increased language and vocabulary development and displays respect for their personhood.
3. Invite their cooperation.
We often hurry to wipe a nose or wash a face by distracting as we want to avoid a resistant, upset response from our child…but what this actually does is promote a resistant response! Saying what you will do and asking them to help you…’ It’s time to wash your face now so your skin can be clean and fresh, can you lean forward?’ followed by a pause (young children take longer to process these requests) and waiting for a response promotes a willing, trusting cooperative child who is engaged in their self-care -even through toddlerhood! Trust me, and I have lived to tell the tale!
‘But what if they don’t lean in?’ I hear you say, ‘What if they protest and refuse?’ This is where a calm leader parent can fully relay the message of acknowledgement and direction to accomplish a necessary loving caregiving task. ‘It sounds like you don’t want to wash your face right now, but it’s now time to clean the dirt off your skin so you will be clean; I am going to wipe it now.’ children tend to respond well to this confident, yet respectfully communicated approach.
4. Slow down and enjoy it!
The days are long, but the years are few. Sure, some days will be time-poor as we juggle the demands of real-life but as much as possible try to be phone free and fully present…soon they won’t need you to wipe their nose, wipe their bottoms or bath them…aim actually to enjoy these often never-ending tasks of early childhood.