5 Tips To Help Foster Your Child's Autonomy (during COVID 19 Lockdown)
Children are now home with us more than they have ever been.
We no longer have the same rigid schedules, time constraints or busyness of life so it’s a perfect opportunity to learn to let go a little and trust our children.
The life we were living before the coronavirus pandemic may not of allowed room, time, or space to let the child foster autonomy as much as they could have done. Maybe you were rushing your child to eat breakfast before you had to drop them off at day care or you were super stressed about how long they were taking to get dressed in the morning so you were always the one getting them dressed so they wouldn’t make you late.
So here are 5 tips to help foster your child’s autonomy during the coronavirus lockdown:
1. Help Children With Intuitive Eating
We can help children listen to their own body clocks and their own cues for hunger by encouraging intuitive eating. Create a little snack cupboard which is within reach for your child. When they are hungry they can help themselves and they can see the varieties of snacks that are on offer.
If this is a novelty for your child at first you may want to keep the sweet treats away but overtime, and as you learn to trust them and as they trust their own bodies you can also allow them to help themselves to sweets/chocolates.
Also be more flexible about meal times. There is no need for them to have rigid meal times for breakfast/lunch/dinner.
Allow your child to give you signals when they are hungry and if you place dinner down for them at five pm and they don’t want to eat be relaxed about it and trust they will come to the table when they are hungry.
2. Encourage Independent Play
Allow space for your child to be bored. Boredom equals creativity.
As parents we often have expectations of how the day is going to map out and we think of all the Pinterest style activities we want to do with our children. Yes this is nice, and yes children love these joint activities (and they are important) but they also aren’t practical to do every day or at every moment through out the day. Not only that they can actually stress us out and we can be disappointed if our child isn’t as responsive to the fun activity we laid out.
Go with the flow. Have a few activities within reach – for example colouring books, play dough, dolls house, lego and just let them be. When they are playing independently hold back from joining in, this actually disrupts the child and breaks their moments of imaginative play.
3. Use Empowering Statements
“I know you can do this by yourself” use statements like this instead of doing everything for your child. If you know they can put their own clothes on, encourage them to do so. Be mindful of the tone you are using and ensure it’s positive and encouraging. After they have done something for themselves thank them and affirm that you knew they would be able to do it.
4. Encourage your child to take responsibility
Your child spills some juice on the floor – encourage them to clean it up. They come running to you to tell you they’ve spilt the juice, pass them some wipes, a towel and ask how they are going to clean it up.
Allow them to clean it up to the best of their ability and help them afterwards if needs be or give them some direction, “You’ve missed a bit, wipe that area in the corner – thank you!”.
This goes for if they are leaving empty food packets around the house, dropping crumbs or leaving their clothes out and remember to ask in a kind tone.
5. Help them acknowledge, recognise and name their emotions
During the day children are going to experience a vast array of emotions (just like we adults do). Help them acknowledge the feeling you see – “I can see you are getting really frustrated because you aren’t able to find your favourite teddy – would you like me to help you find it?” let them know it’s ok to be frustrated and you experience frustration often too, you can even give them an example of when you have been frustrated. Let them express the emotions they are feeling – giving them space to do what they need to do (providing it’s not destructive) and let them know you are there for them when they need you.
Giving your child the space and opportunity to experience autonomy helps them create a sense of mastery over their body, mind and environment. Whilst creating this environment we need to trust our children and give them the space they require.
The Gentle Eating Book: The Easier, Calmer Approach to Feeding Your Child and Solving Common Eating Problems – By Sarah Ockwell-Smith
The Happiest Kids in the World – Bringing Up Children The Dutch Way – by Rina Mae Acosta and Michele Hutchinson