I fondly remember the years of having two young kids that looked at me like I was the King of the Universe. All of that unconditional love and the way they run and jump into your arms. Having little kids is awesome, and that’s how most dads prefer to think of them. However, it cannot be said strongly enough: They grow up quickly. My kids are now 20 and 16 respectively, and we’ve seen a lot of stages of development through the years. These are the zones I have personally experienced:
- Infant Stage
- Toddler Stage
- Pre-K to Early Elementary Stage
- Late Elementary through Middle School Stage
- High School
- Senior Year High School through Mid-College Stage
- Late College to Adulthood Stage
Each of these zones has within them a completely different child than the one you knew before, excepting their fundamental personality traits. It’s imperative that parents understand this and not get bogged down by not transitioning along with the child. Here are 3 ways that I’ve discovered to parent through the age transitions.
1. Be an intentional listener
This summer, my 20-year-old was giving me signals that she’s moving fast towards adulthood. Initially, I didn’t comprehend, because I wasn’t being intentional in listening to what she was saying. In my mind, I was hearing whining. But in reality, it wasn’t whining. It was a plead to be taken seriously as an adult. Listening to what your child is really trying to say will save your family not only a little drama but will smoothly help them move to where life is going to take them. From the cries of an infant, the tantrums of a toddler, the curiosity of a kindergartener, the angst of a middle schooler, the rebellion of a teenager, the independence of a high school senior, and the graduation of a college student…they are always trying to tell you they are changing. Listen intently.
2. Don’t be afraid to let them grow
We can’t be afraid to let them grow, which means let them go.Whether it’s for sentimental reasons (losing that little girl) or for real-world issues (more freedom equals more danger), it’s easy to live in fear as a parent. You can’t do that. We have to lead by wisdom, caution, common sense, and experience, but never by fear. My 16-year-old is in one of those big scary zones right now. She’s driving, has the attention of boys, and is discovering her true likes and desires in life. It’s terrifying from a dad perspective. Am I to just lock her up and stunt her growth because I’m afraid? No. I’ve spent 16 years instilling all the right things into her. This is the time I have to trust the process. We can’t be afraid to let them grow, which means let them go.
3. Remain consistent through it all
As they are going through the emotions and sometimes turmoil of growing up, we need to always be there, stay on message, and move with them at their same pace. Remaining consistent means being a living example of where they are trying to go. When they look at us they should feel comfort in knowing it’s all going to turn out alright.