From The Parenting Center...
As children grow, parents change along with them, learning to do things in different ways and to interact in ways that weren’t possible at earlier developmental stages. It’s not just a question of what stage the child is in, but what stage parents and children are in together. We can describe this growth as "parent/child development.” Children need different types of parent involvement and support at different points in their growth to help them feel secure.
There are three big categories which can be revisited at different times. Parents may need to employ each of these roles at each age, depending on the situation.
The Parent Guardian (ages 5-9) – The school-age child is just beginning to expand his world, spending most of the day in school, being exposed to the ways other families live and awareness of how the world works. With this exposure, parents need to be careful that they provide routines, rituals and predictability that gives kids a safe place to come home to. Parents act as a calming adult presence who keep children grounded and protect them from growing up too fast.
Parents do this by
• maintaining routines
• monitoring what their children are doing
• providing emotional support in times of distress
• spending time with their children in shared activities.
The Parent Companion (ages 9-12) – In preadolescence, kids’ tastes in humor and language often sinks to the lowest common denominator of pop culture. Boys are attracted to violent video games and movies; girls are fascinated by pop idols and fashion that’s just too grown up for them. Cliquishness and obsessive concern with "fitting in” first show up as early as fifth and sixth grade. On the home front, every interaction becomes a negotiation or elicits a comment from the preteen. Sarcasm is the primary way to communicate with each other, parents and particularly younger siblings.
When feeling so out of sorts in their social lives, preteens need to know that parents are still in their court and available to do things with them.
• be flexible and spontaneous
• model the respect you want to see and
• look for ways to connect on an emotional level by doing things with your teen including watching what they watch on TV and finding ways to joke and laugh with them
• try not to disapprove of everything!
The Practical Parent (ages 12-16) – Early adolescence is actually the stage of most conflict between parents and their kids. There’s a sudden and dramatic push for separation, but a need for support. Parents need to be realistic about what their teens are exposed to and what they are doing, recognizing that while you can influence, you really can’t control them. Teens are more likely to be honest about what they are doing when parents are willing to engage in discussions and listen to the child’s point of view.
Parents of teens should
• look for opportunities to connect
• think about and be able to voice your values and the reasons behind them
• provide consequences for breaking agreements
• never say "my child wouldn’t do that!”
The experience of being a parent changes us and is an important stage in adult development. The Parenting Center at Children’s Hospital provides parents with information and skills to be proactive and feel good about the job they are doing.
One of our favorite books about the stages of parenting and what kids need at different ages is Parenting by Heart by Ron Taffel.
For more information on the Parenting Center, CLICK HERE.