Snow what?! Getting help with winter chores

Close-up as man shovels snowWhen it gets this cold and snowy, there is always extra work at home to do. How can you get your ADHD son or daughter to help you and not hold you back? Whether it’s shoveling snow, clearing off cars or carrying wood, parents need help from their children but often choose to do the chores themselves. Involving your child can require extra work for you (and sometimes extra irritation) resulting in less productivity. So, most likely, you would rather just head out alone.

Doing a chore alone has its benefits for a parent: no hassling with a reluctant teen, no reminding a child to stay with the task at hand and no one asking twenty times “How much longer will this take?” This choice, however, is problematic for everyone in the family. You wind up being more tired and perhaps even resentful that you are working alone–again. Your children or teens don’t learn the skills associated with the chore. They also don’t gain the value of helping someone. Lastly, no one gets the satisfaction of completing something together.

Happy girl lying in the deep snow on beautiful winter day.In order to create a win-win situation for everyone (the work is done jointly and correctly with minimal arguing), there have to be clear expectations about the tasks at hand. These simple guidelines need to be established before–way before you embark on the chore itself and will assist all of you in creating a successful experience:

1. In a calm moment that you set aside for a family conversation before the first snowflakes have fallen but after the temperature has already started to drop, brainstorm with your child or teen how you as a family want to approach the winter chores. Who wants to do what and for how long? What is the incentive that your child or teen needs to participate (help with a project that matters to him or her, an extra chunk of computer or television time, hot chocolate and a special baked treat, etc.)? What are the consequences for not participating or arguing while working?

2. Talk about obstacles that have impeded working together on winter chores in the past and strategize about how to deal with them if they re-occur this year.

3. Make an agreement about a time limit for the chore and stick with that. Discuss how you will keep track of time and how you will handle redirecting your child when he drifts off and slows down. Inject some fun into the task. Try doing something goofy like playing music she likes on her iPod out loud. Make snow angels. Play catch with snowballs. Build a fort or snowman.

4. If, at the end of the time period, there is still some work to do and your young assistant has run out of cooperation, patience and concentration, set him or her free and finish it yourself. (Of course, he or she can stay longer if desired.) Remember, that you are contributing to the development of his or her executive skills by planning, participating and sticking with tasks that have to be done but may not be much fun to do. Plus, you are building lifelong memories of doing chores with a parent (remember being outside in the cold when you were a child??).

5. Share a yummy hot chocolate, warm cider or steaming tea when you are done and marvel at your accomplishment. Maybe even play a game, watch a movie or read a book together!

So, grab your gloves and shovels and get started. It’s a winter wonderland out there!