Changing Identities and Other Tricks
Who are you?
I asked myself that about my kids over the years. Just about the time I got used to dealing with the joys and frustrations of my child in one age group he or she would trick me and transition to another age group. I had to learn all over again how to relate to this new person now in another age group living with me. It is one of life’s challenges as a parent to keep up with these changes as your toddlers grow into adults. Here are some important things I have learned as I dealt with the process of parenting of 16 kids.
As a parent, one of the most challenging and rewarding tasks is learning how to effectively communicate and relate to your child as they grow and develop. It can be especially difficult to navigate the different stages of childhood and understand how to best support and guide your child through each phase. Here, we will explore some key considerations for how parents can relate to toddlers, children, and teens in a way that fosters positive development and a strong, healthy relationship. As you embark on this journey, be prepared to meet with surprises along the way.
Navigating Toddlers’ Tricks:
First, let’s consider how to best relate to toddlers. We call them tricks because children at this age are full of surprises. They are developing a sense of humor and love to make you happy and love it when you laugh at their antics. They are just beginning to understand the world around them and are learning how to express their needs and emotions. It is important for parents to provide a safe and supportive environment for their toddler to explore and learn. This may involve setting boundaries and limits to help them understand appropriate behavior. Children are wired to resist boundaries at almost every age. Keep in mind it is also important to be patient and understanding as they are still learning and may have difficulty controlling their emotions or impulses.
One key aspect of relating to toddlers is establishing a strong emotional connection. This can involve showing love and affection through physical touch, such as cuddling or hugging, and through verbal communication and active listening. When your toddler is upset or frustrated, try to validate their emotions and help them find words to express how they are feeling. For example, you might say something like, “I can see that you are feeling really sad. It must be hard to share your toys with your sister.” By acknowledging and empathizing with their feelings, you can help your child feel understood and supported.
Elementary School/Junior High Hijinks
As children grow and develop, the way you relate to them should also evolve. During elementary school years, children become more independent and develop their own interests and passions. It is important for parents to continue to provide a supportive and nurturing environment, but also to allow children to take on more responsibility and make their own decisions. Encourage your child to try new things and explore their interests and be there to offer guidance and support when needed.
One important way to relate to children at this age is through open and honest communication. Encourage your child to talk to you about their thoughts and feelings and listen actively without judgment. It also helps to model good communication skills yourself and be open to hearing your child’s perspective, even if it differs from your own. You can expect sharp differences of opinion occasionally as your child asserts their independence. It may not make sense to you, but it makes sense to them, so validate the child as you digest their point of view.
Teens Tricks and Transformations
If you think it was a wild ride getting to this point, fasten your seat belt for the adventure of a lifetime. Having parented 16 teens, I can tell you with reasonable certainty that this child you have nurtured and walked through scraped knees, broken bikes, and changing BFFs will decide to use all their life’s experiences to transform into someone you either hoped to see or someone you prayed to never see. And the difference? It isn’t the parenting necessarily if you have done your best over the years. And it isn’t a trick. It is a time of searching. It is the age. The culture. The associations. The time to transition. Now they are asking, “Who am I?”
Some children skate through the teen years relatively unscathed. They have questioned but ultimately adopted the values you tried to instill. They aren’t perfect, but even adults are a work in progress, right? Other teens are confronted with being stuck emotionally, unable to move forward through the transition they see in their friends. They may be rebellious and make decisions that make your hair turn gray. They may require outside intervention to move through stages. I have parented children who had regular tantrums as a child and once into puberty, those tantrums turned to rages that lasted for hours. This calls for outside intervention to salvage the parent/child relationship you have invested years to maintain. This behavior is unnerving, but manageable with the right intervention. Do not be afraid to reach out for help.
The Adult Child’s Transformation
Once your child turns 18, the legal age for a number of things, they have learned skills that should serve them well into the future. This is a time for hands-off parenting because you will be responding to requests for help rather than offering unwanted advice This is where you will shine as a parent because you will have learned that your child will always be your child but will not always welcome unsolicited direction from you. You can do this. I promise.
Overall, the key to effectively relating to your child at any age is no trick. The secret is to be patient, understanding, and supportive. As a parent, it is important to provide a safe and nurturing environment for your child to grow and develop, and to be there to offer guidance and support when needed. By establishing open and honest communication, setting appropriate boundaries and limits, and showing love and affection, you can build a strong, positive relationship with your child that will support their healthy development.