Empowering Children to Care for Their World.
Our role as parents is to take care of our children. And their role is to be taken care of.
Except that’s only the beginning. And of course it’s never easy.
Being a mom has shown me a depth of care and compassion that I’ve never know before. And I’m so grateful to be in touch with that seemingly boundless energy. In archetypical work, like Shadow Work, we say that the early years of childhood development is about the Sovereign energy (parent) caring for the Lover energy (child) and the love that flows between is fundamental to growing healthy adults.
Feeling taken care of is a need that will follow our children throughout their lives, and being able to trust this from an early age is pivotal. Children who do not feel this early on may be pursuing it in one way or another as adults, often through addictive and painful behavior. Receiving care, therefore, is pivotal to a human being’s happiness.
What I want to focus on in this article, however, is the importance of a young child being given the opportunity to give care.
When my son was first born, it was all one-way care. He was totally helpless and dependent. At almost three years old, independence was super important to him. I gave him a stool so he could wash his own hands, but it was too tall. He would then climb the counters every time he wanted a glass, to cook with me or walk on the kitchen counter, squealing with delight. I had to demote him to a more modestly tall stool.
There was a lot of negotiation because even as a toddler, the desire to help, to command his own body and actions while feeling useful, was strong with this one. And perhaps it is the same with the kids in your life.
That desire for independence can get really difficult if we fight against it or make it wrong. So how do we use that desire for choice and useful action for good? And can it help us grow caring and generous people?
We can give our children the gift of caring for others and caring for their world. We can allow them to make choices about how they want to be of service and truly receive them and their caring. So instead of thinking it’s all about what we are giving them, we can take these moments and feel open to and awed by what they are offering us as people.
In archetypal terms, I allow my kid to be in his Sovereign self (blessing, supporting, joyful) as I receive that from my Lover self (receptive, soft, connecting).
If this sounds like something you are doing and it’s working for you, I’d love to hear comments from you below. Here are some ways I’ve discovered for giving my son the chance to be empowered in this way:
* Prepare the dining table: Have your child do whatever they are capable of at their age to set the table. Have utensils where they can reach them, show them how to fold a napkin, and have the older children get the plates. They are literally setting the space where we nourish our family.
* Bedtime ritual: At the close of each day, give the child time to be thankful for people and things in their life. And you can send blessings or pray for or send love to people. My boy decided that he liked to open his arms really, really big to send his out, showing the natural tendency to feel powerful and far-reaching when we access our innate caring.
* Caring touch: Ask for a neck rub, or back scratch, or to have your back walked on. They will get to experience their ability to make other people feel comforted.
* Bath-time self-care: Show them how to use a washcloth and soap on their body to take care of themselves. Point out each little toe and each precious dirt-accumulating part that needs extra scrubbing, and praise them for taking such good care of themselves, so they can be fresh and clean for the next day.
It’s vital to keep in mind that although we love to receive our children’s care, we don’t need it. Expecting or depending upon children for love can become dysfunctional. So is setting yourself up for disappointment, because if they’re anything like mine, they can treat you like crap. Part of the job is to be okay with that and not take it personally.
So just receive the sweetness when it’s offered, but don’t rely on it for your sense of happiness.
Most certainly, in all of this, know that the important thing is not that they do it right. I’ve heard people express the belief that kids shouldn’t do any chores because they should be allowed to have a childhood. I honor that. My approach is that they should be allowed to have a childhood while channeling their own power to bless and care for their home and their world.
If you criticize or make their caring action about performance, then that is shaming, and does make them have to grow up in ways you don’t want.
So if your guest is given a baby fork, just give them a big one too. If a neck rub feels more like a pummeling, give some helpful correction. The lifelong message we are going for is that “your way of loving is such a blessing.”
It is all about lifelong messages, what our children will hear in their hearts and minds forever… no pressure though.
We are not perfect. Our kids will have to do emotional work as adults, no matter what we do. But I do want to do my best for my son to leave him with a feeling of being loved, cared for, and with the confidence that he knows how to love and care for himself and other people.
Ultimately, we each want to know deep in our bones that I am cared for always, because I am here.
And that faith is something we can impart on children from their very early days.
Helena Karchere is passionate about helping others know and express more joy, power, wisdom and compassion. She is a certified Shadow Work® coach and provides a safe and transformative space for others to do their emotional work. The magic of this work is that we already have the answers, we just needed to be asked the caring, poignant questions to find them. You are invited to follow her blog on practical spirituality, conscious parenting, and working with the shadow at her website and email her for information about coaching and group work.