When children start showing signs of independence December 6, 2015 – Posted in: Relationships – Tags: children, growing up, independence, parenting
One of the best pieces of parenting advice I’ve ever been given is to remember that my job, as a mum, is to develop adults. This I’ve taken to mean that the over-arching goal of my work as a parent of young children has been to help those kids become ready for adult life. Remembering this goal has really helped when faced with a tricky decision over one of my daughters or when I’ve had to discipline them.
However, knowing that my kids will one day be grown-ups doesn’t stop the pangs of loss I feel when they start to show signs of increasing independence. My eldest is now in secondary school and needs me in a very different way to my 6-year-old who still needs me to wash her hair, read a story and tie her laces. My eldest walks to school with a friend, does her homework without being asked (!) and does some jobs at home to earn her allowance. She’s really growing up! But she still needs my emotional support, protection and nurture.
I find her progress, change and development really exciting but I’ll admit that a part of me is sometimes saddened that she doesn’t want me to read to her any longer. So, how do we cope as our kids start to loosen the ties in preparation for their eventual flight from home…?
- Remember that independence is the point! A child who is able to leave home and set up an independent life has been well-parented.
- They will always need you – just in a different way. I don’t miss nappies and buggies and bottles and all the other baby paraphernalia. I miss the newborn snuggles but I also love being able to natter with my kids! My eldest needs me more as a coach and confidante now and that’s OK.
- The space they leave creates new opportunities. As our children need us less the space they leave gives us the chance to explore new opportunities both socially and with our careers. Grab these opportunities because they will ease your transition.
- Find new ways to connect with your kids. Many parents lose touch with their children as they become teens and young adults because they are not interested in what their kids are into. I would encourage you to show an interest in your child’s favourite sports, bands, actors, hobbies etc in order to keep a common reference point between their lives and yours. If you can’t get a conversation out of your 15-year-old son then ask him to tell you all about his favourite football team. You’ll create an opportunity to bond with him.
And finally, remember that life is a series of stages and transitions. Your kids will always be your kids whether they are big or small. Our job is to love, support and accept them as they pass through each stage. As they get older the likelihood is they will start to do the same for you.