Lessons Children and Teens Learn from Caregiving

May 6, 2008 by  
Filed under ALZHEIMER'S

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 A quick search on your favorite search engine will certainly lead you to information and services for caregivers.  However, you will have to dig a little deeper to figure out how Alzheimer’s disease impacts teenagers and children who have parents, grandparents or other family members who are battling Alzheimer’s.

Children and teens tend to be resilient and creative.  Sometimes, they just need a little prompting and they can take over and figure things out.  One day, in frustration, I sat my mom and my son at the kitchen table, gave them both crayons and prayed for a moment of peace.  Well, it was one of the best days we’d had in a long time.  Mom really enjoyed coloring and my son thoroughly enjoyed helping her to select colors and decide what to draw.

Teenagers are interesting creatures.  Often, they are in their own world and seemingly oblivious to what is happening around them.  Yet, they desperately want to belong. They want to be part of something.  That’s why they often cling to their friends and their groups.  The interaction offers them a  sense of belonging.  When tough times come, they often withdraw because they are not sure what to do.  Just  a little prompting on your part can go a long way.

Children and teens can be helpful in the caregiving process.  It’s natural to want to shield them from what can be ugly  and painful at times.  However, sickness is a part of life.  You are teaching valuable life lessons by allowing them to be a part of the caregiving process.

My mom cared for several sick relatives in our home while I was growing up.  I don’t think she ever stopped to articulate these things as lessons, but here is what I learned:

  • You only have one family.  Be kind to them and support them when they are down.
  • Holding grudges is a waste of time.
  • It is a blessing and an honor to care for a dying person.
  • If you treat people well when they are alive, it makes the grief associated with losing them less complicated.
  • Everyone deserves to be treated with dignity.
  • Sick people are still people.
  • Put other people first.
  • Do the right thing.
  • Encouraging children and teens to be part of the caregiving process helps them to become other-centered instead of self-centered.

The natural tendency is to protect and shield our children, yet, the lessons they learn from being appropriately exposed to hard times will teach lessons and values that will last literally a lifetime.  They may also transfer into your child’s attitude about caring for you when it is necessary.

Do you have children or teens? Are they actively involved in caregiving?  Share your experiences.

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