parenting different ages

3 Ways to Parent Through Age Transitions

I fondly remember the years of having two young kids who looked at me like I was King of the Universe—all 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, and we’ve seen a lot of stages of development through the years. These are the zones I have personally experienced:

  1. Infant Stage
  2. Toddler Stage
  3. Pre-K to Early Elementary Stage
  4. Late Elementary Through Middle School Stage
  5. High School
  6. Senior Year of High School Through Mid-College Stage
  7. Late College to Adulthood Stage

Each of these zones has within it a completely different child than the one you knew before, except for fundamental personality traits. It’s imperative that parents understand this and not resist transitioning to the next stage with the child. Here are 3 ways 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 toward adulthood. Initially, I didn’t comprehend, because I wasn’t being intentional in listening to what she was saying. In my mind, I heard whining. But in reality, she wasn’t whining. She was pleading to be taken seriously as an adult. Listening to what your child is really trying to say not only will save your family a little drama but will help move your child smoothly to where life is going to take her. 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.

We can’t be afraid to let them grow, which means we have to let them go.

2. Don’t be afraid to let them grow.

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 boys’ attention, and is discovering her true likes and desires. It’s terrifying for a dad. Am I just to lock her up and stunt her growth because I’m afraid? No. I’ve spent 16 years instilling all the right things into her. Now I have to trust the process. We can’t be afraid to let them grow, which means we have to let them go.

3. Remain consistent through it all.

As they are going through the emotions and sometimes turmoil of growing up, we always need to 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 all right.

Sound off: How do you handle changes in your kids’ development?

Huddle up with your kids and ask, “What’s been the best time of your life so far? What has been the most difficult?”