Parenting is no easy feat. Spend just a few hours with a toddler or a moody teenager and you’ll understand why this is universally understood. However, that doesn’t mean parents don’t still try to be the best parents they can be. Each stage of your child’s life is different, and so your parenting will have to be too. Here are a few suggestions for being the best parent you can be throughout every stage of their life.
The best thing you can do for your child in the earliest stages of their life is to help develop their brains. From the start, playing games, listening to music, and reading to them is a great way to help a baby’s brain grow. For toddlers, introducing colors and shapes through toys can help as well. By age two or three, your toddler will start showing a preference toward using their right or left hand. Foster this by encouraging them to practice coloring and writing. You should also encourage reading. Even if they are just listening along, it will help them to connect words with pictures.
Aside from encouraging development, an important part of parenting for all stages of your child’s life is making sure they feel comforted and supported. Even babies can feel stress, and as they grow up, it’s likely their stress will grow too. Make sure you prove to them that you’ll always be there. Let them know that you’re on their side.
When they’re young, this will be most apparent through physical touch. Make sure you’re holding and cuddling with your young child. As they grow, this may evolve into more verbal affirmations or different actions. Be sure to pay attention to how they receive love best and hone in on that. It may change from physical touch to words of affirmation or quality time.
As your child grows into a teenager, one of the best things you can do as a parent is to enjoy activities with them. When your child takes a shine to something that interests them, you should try becoming interested in it as well. Be sure to ask if you can join them to avoid any awkward confrontations. However, learning about the activities that your child likes will help you connect to them on a deeper level, whether it be sports, theatre, art, or music. Even if it’s not something you particularly enjoy, getting involved with them can show you care about them and what they care about. In 2018, 37.5 million people participated in sailing. Even if you’ve never sailed before, encourage this activity in your child and you might even become interested in it yourself.
Your kid might also become interested in gardening, especially if this is an activity that the two of you performed in their childhood. Whether you actually want to garden or not, perhaps you know that well-kept landscaping increases return value on a home by up to 14%, and spending some quality time planting flowers is a worthwhile investment. This is because it’s not only great for your relationship with your kid, but it’s also good for your home. Whatever your motivation may be, getting involved with what your kids care about is a great way to strengthen your relationship.
Another important part of parenting a teenager is knowing when to give them space. We all need our space sometimes, and typically, teenagers need a lot of it. It’s the most common time for them to feel like their parents don’t get them; at this age, most teens are wrapped up in their friends and whatever drama is happening at school, and they simply don’t have the patience as they try to forge a stronger identity of their own. Giving them time and space is a great way to protect your relationship. If you become too overbearing, it may push them away. You have to find a healthy balance of being in their life and allowing them their own space to grow.
Growing into Adulthood
As your kids become adults, your role will become less and less essential in their life, which is the goal. You wanted to raise independent, responsible adults, and now they’re there. When it comes to this point in their life, especially while they are still in their twenties, your role may largely revolve around financial and real-life advice. When will they move out? Where will they go? How do they make the perfect resume for their dream job? What will they wear to the interview? And sometimes, how will they pay for their wedding?
While you’re far more than just a checkbook, as they get older, so will their needs. They may not always ask for it, but your advice could be just what they need most. However, knowing when to give advice is key. What may work for one kid may not work as well for another. The best parenting advice one can receive is to learn from your kids and figure out what works best for them. If they know you’re on their team and simply trying to help, you’ll be much more likely to have a positive impact. Even into adulthood, space and support are still important. Your adult child needs to know you’re there for them, but that they can do things themselves as well.