A lot of mothers like to talk about the challenge of childbirth and dealing with sleepless nights when it comes to their newborn baby, but parenting can actually be a lot harder several years down the road. A young child is still dependent on their mother, and they look up to you in many ways. Teenagers and pre-teens, however, can be a little more difficult.
They’re dealing with inner hormonal changes and growing responsibilities being put on their shoulders by the outer world. They’re trying to figure out how to be independent whilst still living at home with their family. We all vaguely remember life as a teen. It’s tough. You feel as if you’re being pulled in two directions, and your emotions are all over the place. So, what’s the secret? How can you prepare your child for the world? These are a few important aspects of parenting a growing child.
Encouraging healthy living.
As explained in the introduction, your growing kid is trying to figure out their place in the world. They’re trying to figure out who they are and who they’re going to become. As uncool as parents might be in the eyes of their growing tweens or teens, they still need you to guide them in many ways. You need to prepare them for the world without overwhelming them.
One of the best ways in which you can achieve this is to help them adopt a healthy lifestyle. So many children pick up unhealthy habits that stick with them as they get older. If you want your children to eat nutritious meals when they get older then teach them how to cook for themselves. Give them the necessary tools to look after themselves when they become adults.
As for exercise, you need to turn physical activity into something fun. This is tough. Again, it’s another way in which parenting a younger child is easier than parenting an older child. Little children are bundles of energy – you can’t stop them running around. But teenagers often have other things on their mind such as sleeping in, seeing friends, and contending with exams. You just need to encourage them to adopt a better mindset with regards to physical exercise.
Rather than encouraging them to go for a run, you could encourage them to join a sports club at school to turn exercise into a social event. Or if they’d rather not play sports with their classmates then you could get them some weights to use at home. Maybe you could even encourage them to take up dance or karate if they want to take up a form of physical activity that feels less athletic and sports-oriented.
Setting a family bedtime.
You might struggle with this one as your kids get older. When they’re little, they adhere to the strict bedtime set by their parents, but children tend to adopt a looser bedtime routine as they get older.
As mentioned earlier, teenagers often like to sleep in. But if you want to encourage a healthy sleeping pattern that’ll serve your growing kid well as an adult (because it’s much harder to function on very little sleep as a grown-up) then you should consider setting a family bedtime. This might seem like a strange suggestion, but it could encourage kids to go to bed early and get up early. After all, if you and your partner are going to bed late then your children will feel as if they’re missing out.
If your kids are struggling to sleep because of hectic school and home lives then you should help to create a calmer bedtime routine. Maybe you and your family could all avoid screens during the hour just before you go to bed. You might even want to turn off the WiFi router at bedtime so that nobody is tempted to scroll through social media feeds on their phones at a late hour.
We briefly mentioned this earlier, but we all remember what it’s like to be a teenager, right? The memories might be a little vague, but you probably recall the emotional turbulence of those years. Obviously, there are good and bad aspects of this period. On the one hand, teens are learning so much about the world and growing into the people they want to be for the rest of their lives. On the other hand, their feelings might change with every passing day because that’s the nature of being a teenager; you grow up quickly.
The best thing you can do for your child is to empathise with them. You might still be uncool in their eyes, but it’s important to remind your kid that it’s okay to feel anxious, stressed, or emotional in any kind of way. Showing this level of empathy will give your child peace of mind and make them feel a little less odd. You might not always relate to their experiences because every teenager goes through different things, but you can relate to the struggles of being a tween or a teen in general. In that sense, you can sympathise. But, even when you don’t understand their problems, empathising is enough. That takes us to the next point.
One of the essential secrets to parenting a growing kid well is simply being there. This shouldn’t be a secret. In fact, it’s one of the most straightforward aspects of parenting. Your children will accept that you don’t have all the answers as they get older. We all remember learning that adults don’t know everything. But they don’t need you to have all the answers. They just need your love and support. That means you need to be there for them through both the good times and the bad times. When it comes to parenting a teen, you have to be prepared for emotional hardships and struggles. It’s almost as if you’re reliving those teenage years. Still, remember that a growing kid who might be acting out probably needs you more than they’re letting on. After all, lashing out is often a cry for help.
Every child is different, and you know how to parent your growing kid better than anyone else does because you know them better than anyone else does. Nonetheless, you shouldn’t be afraid to accept a helping hand every once in a while. You don’t have to see it as a concession of defeat. We’re all human at the end of the day.
You can’t be the best possible parent if you’re on the brink of total exhaustion. It’s okay to take a break every once in a while, even if you and your partner share parenting responsibilities. Go out for a relaxing meal and watch a film. Leave your children with a babysitter if they’re too young. Or give one of them the opportunity to prove themselves by keeping an eye on the others if they’re old enough. Of course, you could also get help from family and friends if you’re really struggling. As your child gets older, they might be able to take better care of themselves, but that doesn’t mean you have fewer responsibilities as their parent.
There are no universal rules for parents, other than remember to feed your children and put a roof over their heads. Beyond that, navigating the tricky maze of bringing up a child is always going to be a challenge. The secret is simply loving and supporting your growing kid, even if they’ve become a snarky teen who’s too cool for you. Everyone else will fall into place.