When you first have kids, it brings a lot of things home to you. For one, there is the fact that you never really have anything “nailed” the way we all dream of. We tell ourselves that if we can get on top of this problem or that problem, then we'll be sorted for the future. But life isn't like paperwork, where you can get it all done and in the out tray and then relax. It's more like spinning plates. Parenthood is doubly so.
As kids get older, it's easier to explain things to them and easier to reason with them. For those parents with teenagers, don't laugh! Yes, you may have a kid in a rebellious phase. That rebellious phase might at this point have been going on for years. But if you need them to do something or be somewhere – or NOT do something – you can explain why. Self-preservation will do the rest for you.
So it can get easier as the kids get older, but it never gets EASY. Just think back to your childhood. Remember that just as you thought you had something figured out, another thing happened that you weren't expecting. Childhood and adolescence are like that. Until you're eighteen, and even after that, things keep happening to you for the first time. Surprises are fun when you're five, but can be annoying when you're 14.
As the parent, your role in all of this is to allow your kid to ride the waves as serenely as possible. There will be worries, there will be fears and there will be all out warfare at times. But raising a well-adjusted kid depends on many things, and one of those is knowing that someone has their back. Let's take a year in the life of a kid, month-to-month, and help them through the changes life brings.
Christmas is in the rear-view mirror and school back on the agenda. This gives most kids the old Sunday Night Blues, except much bigger. Few things can make it better, and the bank balance is probably a bit low to spend your way out of it. Give them something to look forward to – arrange an Easter holiday somewhere special, or a road trip. Remind them that happy times aren't just for December.
As soon as you are old enough to realize that love exists, you are sadly old enough to worry about Valentine's Day. You don't even need to be at high school to worry about whether you'll get cards, whether you should send one, and so on. This one is hard for a parent, but deciding to send a card to your own kid is a plan that can too easily backfire. There is only one thing worse than not getting any cards, and that's the pity card. No matter how well-intentioned it is.
As the first signs of spring appear, everywhere really starts to wake up in March and this means more time spent outside. For various reasons, this is naturally a good thing. If your child seems interested in spending more of their time indoors, it could be that they have something on their mind. Speak to them, and encourage them to speak to you. Don't push them too much to go out – it can feel a bit harsh, if something's getting them down.
Remember that trip that was planned back in January? Now's the time to follow through on that. With exams around the corner and a few months' school under their belt, now is a good time to breathe. Your son or daughter gets tired and stressed just like you do when a routine is relentless. It doesn't need to be a long trip, just something that they want to do.
So close to summer, and yet so far. May, for older kids, means one thing above all. The exam period begins, and classes are all geared towards it. It's important to make sure they realize how important these exams are, but make it easier for them. They'll need to study, but if they can do it in comfort it's easier. Pick a recommended beanbag chair or choose your own from Fombag or another supplier.You can't stop them from getting stressed, but you can sweeten the deal.
The exam period isn't over as the month kicks off, but it's coming to an end. And for younger kids, the summer is nearly here. So close to two or three months of freedom. Now is a good time to pick out some new clothes for summer, so sit down and go through some options online. Or just ask your kid to pick out some things themselves, whichever is less likely to lead to a row! If they're heading off to camp you may not see them for a while, so a good atmosphere is essential.
If your kid is staying home for the summer then the chances are they'll be spending most of the days out of the house. They may be seeing friends, playing or indeed working to make some more cash for college. The most important thing, while this period can feel like ships passing in the night, is to keep communication going. It's easy for parents and kids to grow apart in the summer. Don't let that be you.
Right around this time, that January feeling might be bubbling up again, as kids start to think about being back at school. If you have a late-teen kid, they may be getting ready for college. Either way, they'll need to be going back feeling confident and ready to deal with the new semester. This is a good time to have a heart-to-heart and see if anything is bothering your kid. Getting any such issues dealt with will allow them to get into the new term with a clear head.
As the evenings start to get longer again, it is a good time to start thinking about the autumn and everything that holds. Older kids will be going to more parties as school is back on and they need to let off steam. Younger kids will be dealing with the increase in homework after the back to school “honeymoon” expires. At this point, they don't need much in the way of lectures – but keep an eye out and listen to them for any developing issues.
For a lot of kids – probably most – Halloween is one of the most significant holidays of the year. In the US, it is behind only Christmas for some, on a par with Thanksgiving. Again, parties for the elder kids, but this time also for the younger ones. Plus, there's Trick or Treating and the costumes that are essential. Do you make them, or buy them? Speak to your child about what they want to go as – this is a big holiday for them.
You’re getting towards the end of the year and Christmas isn’t far off. There will be a few things to sort out before you can look forward to the festivities – older children have things like coursework to deal with. The younger children, so full of vitality in the summer months, may be finding it tougher now. Keep an eye out for lowness of mood here, as it can be an early sign of Seasonal Affective Disorder. It’s not something any parent wants to think about, but longer evenings can get to any of us, at any age.
Nearly there! Of course, when you are a kid, December means one thing above all others. And when you're a parent, it means getting an answer – a realistic, affordable answer – to a key question. What do they want for Christmas? If you don't have unlimited funds, and most of us don't, you need to search for ways of getting the big present they want. It means balancing what you can do with what you want to do – it's not always easy, but it is worth the effort.
As you'll be aware, December ticks right back over into January, so you will then find yourself back at the same point. When you're an adult, this whole process goes a lot faster than it does when you're a kid. Not because you're enjoying it more, but because you've been through the whole process many more times. There are fewer firsts for you, and therefore fewer time stamps. Remember that, and be patient, when the familiar songs of frustration strike up every January.
As a parent, there will be times when you want nothing more than to just make it all easy for your child. Coming through these frustrating months, which build into years, is how they get ready for being older. Always be there for them, but don't step in every time it's looking difficult. As your kids get older, they'll recognize the situations they've been in before and learn the solutions.
And if all of the above makes it seem like being a parent is more hard work than happiness, bear in mind that it's the tough stuff that makes the rest better. Keep the hard times to a minimum, but enjoy that you can be the one to make things better.