Being a parent can bring great joy and happiness as well as challenges too! Watching your child grow and develop into a unique individual can be a rewarding experience. However, the path to parenthood can be a surprising one as well, journeying on a winding road of emotions ranging from satisfaction and joy to anxiety and frustration.
In this day and age of social media influences, parents need to be equipped with the necessary knowledge and skills to guide the little one as they progress through the developmental stages as each stage, poses a different challenge.
0 to 6 years old – This is a vital time to develop strong bonds between parent and child that will last a lifetime of secure attachments. Each child is unique and it is important that parents learn to understand, respect, support and encourage the uniqueness of each child.
7 to 12 years old – Raising a school-going child can be rewarding as they try new activities and become confident of themselves, learning new information and behaviours as they interact with others. However, it may also be a time of frustration for both parent and child if learning becomes a struggle or if it is a situation of coping with any kind of limitations. Disruptive or unregulated behaviours in the classroom or at home may be contributed by the anxiety & frustrations due to an undiagnosed learning problem, among other things.
13 to 19 years old – The teenage years present a challenge for both parents and the adolescent. For the adolescent, it is a time for growth spurts and puberty changes. Other than physical changes, the teen also goes through mental, emotional and social changes. This phase of the struggle for independence and control requires parents to be equipped with the skills and knowledge needed to support their teen as he/she forms their self-identity.
With the expanded social network coupled with the changing hormonal changes, most teenagers develop romantic feelings towards the opposite gender as they experience a different type of love beyond the usual love that they feel towards family members. This is a type of strong but tender feeling which is normal during adolescent development.
In general, most parents are genuinely fearful about their teens forming strong attachments at an early age because parents are worried about their child's readiness to be attached earlier than they expect and it is also parental duty to protect their children irrespective of their age.
Parents do not be too alarmed by the sudden behavioural, emotional and social changes you notice in your teen. Remain calm and non-reactive if you notice that your teenager suddenly feels on top of the world, starts listening to love songs, becomes secretive about their personal belongings, or sends too many text messages. It may simply mean, they are feeling noticed by someone or feeling happy to be pursued and they are trying to share this information with a best friend.
A good way to address such concerns with your teen is to keep the line of communication open in a caring manner and by sharing your life experiences when you were a teen. This sets the tone for your teen to learn valuable lessons from parents and adults in their life. Never dismiss, invalidate or ridicule a teenager's feelings by stating "this is not your age to fall in love".
Start setting safe boundaries by opening up safe opportunities for teens to mingle and expand their social relationships as they enter into a different life stage in which teens will exert their independence and freedom because they are ready to venture into new experiences. Remember, teenagers will push boundaries once in a while; it is in those moments that you need to stay calm and firmly reinforce the agreed boundaries, allowing space for negotiations in exceptional occasions as parents are an instrument in teaching their teens to make appropriate decisions by giving them the autonomy once in a while.