For our newest series, we’re tapping into the expertise of Dr. Stephanie Smith. Dr. Smith is a mother, clinical psychologist, author of Dr. Stephanie. Each month, she’ll answer one question from fellow parents. Have a question centered around health, kids or food for Dr. Stephanie? Comment below and let us know!
As my kids grow I find myself feeling sad that they aren’t little any longer. How can I better embrace/celebrate the stages in their childhood, adolescence and into adulthood so that they can know each time is special and I can find joy in each chapter instead of feeling sad they aren’t my “little” one anymore?
I love your question because I think a lot of parents (and grandparents, aunts, uncles and cousins) feel this way but feel awkward talking about it. After all, babies are so cute! Toddlers so silly! Preschoolers so charming! And some parents find themselves dreading the aging of their children. Or tougher yet, struggling to connect with their older children in the same way they did when the kids were younger.
Here are a few ideas for adjusting to being a parent of older kids:
Connect with parents of older kids. One of the things that can be most helpful as a mom, is learning from other parents. Many of us connected with other parents during the baby stage, but sometimes those relationships fall off as life gets busy and everyone starts heading in different directions. As your kids get older, however, I think it can be more important than ever to have other parents to connect to. Better yet, try reaching out to parents who have kids a bit older than yours. Watch what they do, learn from their parenting strategies. What do they do to enjoy their children at every stage?
Get involved in your older kids’ lives. Once kids get into middle and high school, the opportunities to volunteer in their schools and activities might not be as obvious and plentiful as they once were. But it doesn’t mean those opportunities aren’t there! If you’re feeling disconnected with your kiddo, try engaging more with their school, church group, archery team, marching band or student council. Are there opportunities to chaperone? Provide meals? Organize trips? By engaging with your kids where they are, you might develop a new appreciation for their stage in life.
Don’t forget the things you used to do together. As our kids get older, it can be easy to fear that our kids won’t need us – or want to be with us – anymore. And as the teenage years descend, many kids are more than happy to tell you all the things you don’t know, how embarrassing you are and how they can control their own lives. However, I have discovered that if you pay close attention, many older kids still desire some aspects of the closeness they had to you as a little one. For example, one of my teen daughters still likes to have her back scratched as she’s falling asleep at night. My tween daughter still likes to be read to at night while we snuggle on her bed – just like old times! My point is, you may still be able to connect with your older children in the cherished ways you did when they were much younger. You might simply have to slow down long enough to ask.
Put yourself on a schedule. One of the coolest things about smartphones is that they allow us to have all of our photos and videos at our fingertips! But with this easy access, you may find yourself pining for the times when your kids were young. If you notice the reminiscing interfering with being engaged in the present, you might consider putting yourself on a schedule. Perhaps only looking at photos/videos on Friday mornings, or for just 5 minutes once per day. Of course, it can be wonderful to recollect the past, but there are lots of memorable moments awaiting you and your family in the present and future as well.
DISCLAIMER: Please note that the information in this article is intended for informational purposes only. It should not be used as a substitute for psychological or medical care. If you are experiencing a mental health emergency, call 9-1-1.