Q. My husband and I have six children. Since we’ve all been spending so much time together at home, I’m finding that I’m so tired and grouchy, I want to nap all day. However, I can’t because I have household chores like cooking, cleaning, laundry, and more. I’m letting the children be entertained by television and their devices. When they don’t do what I ask, I scream at them and on occasion threaten punishment. How can I get out of this depressed funk and do right by the kids?
A. Assuming you have already been medically checked out for possible physical or mental health issues, realize that almost all mothers tend to be tired and have to work at bringing positive energy to their children. One way you can bring your children energy and love, and free yourself from depressing chores, is to teach your children some useful life skills. Children remember and appreciate what parents teach them throughout their lives. Suggestions of skills you can teach your kids include:
- Cooking: Kids love learning to cook. Teach one or two at a time while assigning others to set the table. Encourage them to be creative in setting a nice table using place cards and flowers. You can also involve math in your teaching. For example, if a recipe calls for one and a half cups of flour, how much flour would you need if you doubled the recipe? Have some low sodium tomatoes or broth and some that are not low sodium? Ask this: how much less sodium is in the low sodium can?
- Washing dishes: Teach the kids to clear the table, load and unload the dishwasher, or to wash dishes in the sink. One of the best moms I know assigns her two boys to take turns loading and unloading the dishwasher. They do a good job.
- Washing clothes: Assign the kids in pairs to wash their own clothes. Assign an older child to work with a younger child fold the clothes and put them away.
- Cleaning chores: Teach the kids how to clean various surfaces and provide a reward for when the chores are done. Spend some time thinking about what rewards you can offer that would really incentivize your kids.
- Planning a fun hour: Kids can plan something for the whole family one or two nights a week. Kids are great at writing plays, coming up with games, and showing off their talents. A little guidance and appreciation on your part goes a long way to make the kids feel loved.
- Money management: List ways the kids can make money. Talk about saving money and the advantages of saving for something special instead of buying impulsively. Help your kids set up savings accounts when they have accumulated some money. If one child has a savings account, then others may want one also. Learning to budget and save is a valuable life skill.
- Great outdoors. If you or your husband love the outdoors, teach the kids some skills. My children’s father was a great outdoors man. He taught the kids to hunt, throw tomahawks, and other survival skills. I taught them how to swim, how to garden, how to cook, and how to raise chickens.
If you express your love through teaching, your energy will increase and the relationships with your children will improve. Also, stop screaming at your kids. This can be abusive and traumatic. If you do yell, simply put yourself in a grown-up timeout and apologize for your behavior.
Betty Richardson, PhD, RN, CS, LPC, LMFT, is an Austin-based psychotherapist.