Right out of the gate, I’m going to make a disclaimer: I am having the hardest time doing just what the title of this piece says. Why would you want to read a blog when the author admits from the first sentence she can’t do what she’s trying to inform you about? You pour a cup of coffee and sit for a few minutes with a fellow parent who is having an unusually hard time watching her babies grow up, and realize that all of us parents are walking through this difficult time together. This is why we were always meant to do life together in community, because I am most literally crawling on the coattails of those who have walked this season before me. My oldest child is about to start his senior year of high school. Just for information, he’s not a baby, he’s 17 years old and towers an entire foot taller than me, but in my eyes he’s still 18 months old and he’s my heart walking around outside my body. This parenting thing is so much harder than you think. So, how can we help our kids navigate this season of teenage to adulthood (and beyond) and help ourselves not lose our minds and hearts in the process? It is something we have to take one step at a time, one day at a time. Obviously I don’t have it figured out, but I have been handed some great advice that I’m working with. We can try it out together.
Parenting Survival 101
Not an expert, trust me. I’m just redistributing excellent advice I’ve been given and things I’ve learned as a parent (mostly the hard way).
- Don’t baby your babies, especially once they reach tween years. Babying them will not be met with gratitude at this point in their life. Listen to what they NEED from you because it’s not always what you WANT to give at this time. (Don’t worry, you are still the authority, but you want them to feel comfortable to come and tell you things and you must ALWAYS be willing to listen)
- Learn to draw the line between what THEIR needs are and what YOUR needs are. It’s so easy to let that line bleed together. You go, you fight, you do, then you realize you are getting all worked up over something that is more your idea of what should be rather than what they actually need (guilty)
- Let them learn how to do things on their own and make their own mistakes. Who is a better teacher than failure?
- Teach them and talk to them about your family values and beliefs, then trust that when decision time comes, they will, most likely, make the right choices
- It’s natural to want to help them, but not to the point where you do everything for them. You are raising them to be adults that can function in society on their own. That won’t happen if you’re still cutting their chicken at every meal (guilty)
- Learning to let go hurts, but it will hurt them more if you try to stay too attached. Focus on the adult they are becoming and less on the little one they were. Memories are our best gift to cherish but we can’t keep trying to “recreate” them. (I keep trying to squeeze them back into the buggy at Target. Trust me, they don’t fit anymore!)
- Don’t live in “Regrets-ville,” it’s not a good neighborhood. Don’t pack your bags and take a guilt trip with the thoughts, “I wish I had, I should’ve, why didn’t I?” Take the things you wish you could change about the past and make some good plans for now and for the future
- As they are growing, changing, and maturing, so are you. We don’t leave the hospital with newborns ready to parent teenagers. We grow into the role as they grow into the season. It’s a learning process for everyone so have grace for them and grace for yourself
- Be quick to apologize to them when you do something wrong or handle something the wrong way (because we ALL DO). The sooner they learn Mom and Dad aren’t perfect, the sooner they won’t try and be perfect (because no one is)
- They are never too young or too old for boundary lines, so draw them, explain them, and enforce them
- Know who their friends are and who their friend’s parents are, and always keep a close eye on their technology
- Make sure you are constantly telling them how much you love them and how proud you are of them. Even when they mess up? Yes, especially then. Unconditional love is real and they need to see your love for them doesn’t change when they make a mistake
Love Continually Grows
I still watch them sleep and gaze at them, always in awe that God chose me to be their Mom. That will never change. As they sleep, they look a little bit like they did when they were smaller, still just as beautiful, still my babies, no matter how much taller they grow. Whether your kids are grown and have kids of their own, or your baby is still in the womb, our role as their parents will never change. How we parent them, how we relate to them changes as they change. And that love you have for them, the one that consumes you at times, yeah it keeps growing. It never stops, and we never stop finding new ways to show them and tell them just how much, even though they don’t fully understand a love like that. But they will. The day their own baby looks up at them and then, that light bulb turns on and they look at us through different eyes. The eyes of a loving parent.
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