Parenting Through the Years

This week, my oldest son turns 19 years old. As I reminisce through the years, I am in awe with how quickly they went by. You probably have heard the saying, “The days are long, but the years are short.”

So today, I would like to encourage others parents and share some observations I have made over the past 18 years. I hope this insight is helpful as you embrace each stage with your child.

1. For parents with kids: birth-5 years

The first 6 years are the most physically exhausting with the sleepless nights as a baby, the constant care as a toddler, and the endless energy of a preschooler. However, these years were some of my favorites as we experienced so many firsts: first word, first step, first day of school, and first time riding a bike or going to the beach.

Our parenting role in these early years is very hands on as they depend on you for everything: food, safety, physical care, emotional attachment….  

You can see why this stage can easily lead to fatigue. So my advice is to take good care of yourself physically, so you can embrace the excitement of these early years. If you feel tired, then I encourage you to rest when your child is napping or go to bed earlier. I wish I had done this more, so I could be fully present when my kids were awake. Stop worrying about your to do list and just stay in the moment.

2. For parents with kids: 6-12 years

The middle 6 years are the most mentally exhausting as you juggle so many schedules with carpool, playdates, homework, sports, scouts… However, these years are so rewarding as your child enjoys spending time with you and at the same time is becoming more independent and less reliant on you to help them get dressed or tie their shoes.

Our parenting role in the elementary years is like a teacher with lots of training, hands-on instruction, and emotional support as they learn to do things on their own.

My advice is to lean in and truly enjoy this special time with them. Be intentional and attend their special events, play board games together, and build Legos with them when they ask.  They love time with you so make the most of every opportunity. Very soon their time with friends will replace their time at home with you.

3. For parents with kids: 13-18 years

The last 6 years are the most emotionally exhausting as they become teenagers. Worry over their friends and choices they will make occupy your mind. Some parents do not enjoy these years, but I appreciated the deeper conversations and seeing their brain use critical thinking. Understanding and offering empathy to all the emotions they were feeling was very important in this stage.

Our parenting role in the teenage years shifts to a coach or mentor offering encouragement and feedback as they say goodbye to childhood and enter young adulthood.

My advice is to stay engaged and not check out. Their independence and increased interest in friends does not mean they still don’t need your support and advice. Listen more than talk. Guide them through tough situations with friends or significant others. As they make responsible choices, give them more freedom. When they make mistakes, use them as growth opportunities.

Remember we want to help them soar when it is time to launch. That day seems so far in the future, but it happens much quicker than you realize.

This past weekend, my heart was full as my 19 year old was home from college to celebrate his birthday! It was so special to spend quality time with him again!

Time is a gift! Embrace each season of parenting. I know there are both challenges and rewards with each age group, but be intentional each day. Show your kids how important they are to you with your words and actions. Laugh together, play games, and go on adventures. Get into their world and let them know that they are a priority in your life.  Savor your time with them — I promise you will not regret it!

Love, Jodi

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