I continue to be surprised at how many parents do not teach their children to participate in responsibilities around the house. We set a model for how our children will be as they grow, and we also educate them about roles we have in our families. It is not uncommon for women to complain about the lack of shared responsibilities from their partners. Often this is because men are not raised in homes that taught them to participate fully. Men cite concerns about bearing too much responsibility with finances and car repairs. Often this is because women were not raised in homes that taught then to participate with these things. Does it sound sexist? I guess so.
Children are capable of doing laundry. They can put dirty clothes in baskets, put them in the washing machine, add soap, and start the machine. They need to be taught. They can transfer clothing to a dryer. They can remove the clothing, fold it, and put it away. In families that do laundry for the whole family, they can wash and dry, and they can separate the clothing for each member of the family to fold and put away themselves.
Children can be involved with food preparation. They can help plan meals. It is wise to take them to the store to buy food so they can become familiar with options and how stores are arranged. They can put groceries away. They can help prepare meals on a regular basis. It takes time to teach them how to measure, cut, use a stove or microwave, but they are able to learn. They can set tables, remove dishes after a meal and they can wash dishes or fill the dishwasher. They can empty a dishwasher or put racked dishes away.
• Children can sweep, vacuum, put things away in the bathroom, and clean them too.
• Children can take garbage out and place the bins at the curb.
• Children can walk the dog, clean a litter box, and feed the animals.
• Children can dust, water plants, put away toys and games, and straighten a room.
• Children can handle learning about expenses and how we pay them. They can learn about maintaining a car. They can learn about car parts. They can wash a car.
• Children can learn to hammer, and they can learn to build things using tools. Clearly age and maturity would serve as guides to what equipment they use.
Families that meet once a week and designate responsibilities do well. Start when the children are young if you can, but it is never too late, just more challenging.
We live together, we share the roles. We can help our children become independent, capable and desirable partners as adults.
Dr. Natalie Gelman is an Alameda-based therapist. Submit questions to firstname.lastname@example.org or through her website, www. drnataliegelman.com.