Here we are, yet again, asking ourselves, “How did the new school year come so soon?” Forget January, September is the real month of resolutions. We swear this will be the year our elementary schooler will focus her attention toward organization. Or maybe our middle schooler will finally be confident enough to show the other kids his incredible sense of humor. And hopefully, our high schooler will be just a bit easier on herself. We all have an idea of how we can nudge our children toward being the best version of themselves and we’re often determined to show them exactly how to get there. However, teachable moments stem from first-hand experience. So hold on tight, because it’s going to be another crazy year. But, you just might find some method in the madness.
Parenting is all about moving through different stages – confronting the unique challenges, and tapping into the fresh possibilities that accompany each one. When you have young children, you’re reintroduced to a more innocent way of seeing the world. Suddenly, everything is new again and each rock is worth peeking under. As your children stumble along the path to discovery, make room for intentionality. This means exposing them to storybook characters with complex feelings, asking them about their short-term goals and long-term dreams, equipping them with language to identify their emotions and showing them the meaning of empathy in action. Planting these seeds will give your children the foundation to grow as a hard-working student, loyal friend and eventually, independent adult.
Your role will change yet again as your child navigates the often dreaded middle school years. During this time, tweens begin to develop their interests, make new friends and yes – pull away from parents. Take a deep breath because the inevitable (and developmentally normal) difficulties ahead are only poorly dressed opportunities to grow. Here’s why: that impulsive, erratic, unexplainable middle school brain is actually improving, which makes these years monumental when it comes to ingraining important lessons. What’s more, their brain’s new affinity for risk-taking enables them to take on more challenges. That’s correct: that big organ we attribute so much chaos to, is actually fertile ground for learning to take place. So, give your middle schooler a chance to do something for the thrill of it. Does public speaking make your tween nervous? Encourage them to try out for the debate team. Do they have a secret love of drawing? Dare them to enter a competition. That rush of excitement will happen no matter what the risk is – so let’s make it a healthy one.
When you’re the parent of a high schooler, it’s important to ask yourself, “How would they function without me?” Soon enough, this hypothetical question will more or less be the reality, so look for the holes in their competency. How comfortable are they advocating for themselves? Are they able to address their wrongdoing when problems arise? Do they have a comprehensive understanding of how to wash and fold their own laundry? These gaps – no matter how big or small – will present challenges for them in the future; it’s up to your teenager to fill them. When they come to you with an issue, you can provide love, support, and a listening ear, but resist the temptation to solve it. They’ll thank you later.
And just like that, your baby is suddenly an adult. Get ready, because this stage of parenting lasts the longest, and it’ll be quite the journey. Even as they move out of the house for good, you’ll never shake that protective instinct to come to their rescue. Instead, teach them to invest. Invest their time in meaningful activities. Invest their love in worthy relationships. Invest (just a bit!) of their cash in the stock market. (Worst case: they lose a little money. Best case: you’ll get a really fabulous seventieth birthday present.) But most importantly, teach them to invest in themselves. Encourage them to understand the difficulties they dealt with in high school, to revisit those interests that set in during middle school, and to channel that insatiable curiosity they had in elementary school. Soon, they’ll be taking these lessons and passing them on to their own children, and you’ll be there for them, as you always were, every step of the way.
Heading back to school? Make sure you check out our Back to Schoolkit. Let us know your student’s age, the type of information you’re looking for and your focus for the school year, and we’ll bring tailored, expert advice straight to you.