How to Cope with Your Child Growing Up

Three Parts:Sending Your Child Off to SchoolNavigating the Teen TransitionLetting Your Adult Child Leave the Nest

It can be very difficult for parents to watch their child grow up. It often seems like they go from cute little babies to moody teenagers to independent adults so quickly. Coping with your child growing up means preparing both of you for each new life stage along the way. It means holding on tight, yet also letting go bit by bit so that your child can become his or her own person.

Part 1
Sending Your Child Off to School

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    Keep a positive attitude despite your anxiety and sadness. A positive attitude towards your child's growing up is essential. Think about what your child has learned and be proud of it, just as you were proud when he learned to walk independently or sleep alone.[1]
    • In the same way, try to appreciate your child's growing abilities, such as going to school alone, finishing his homework without your help and making his own decisions.
    • Instead of mourning because your child is growing up, be proud of him and be proud of yourself, because you, with your support and love, have helped your baby grow into the child he is.
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    Allow your child to play independently before he goes to school for the first time. The desire to hover over your child to guide and protect him is strong and hard to control.[2] Often, the first independent step and challenge for parents and children is to let them play alone in the yard.
    • Talk with your child and let him know what is allowed and what is not.
    • Allow him to play but watch and be ready to react.
    • When you see that your child respects the agreement and behaves the way you expect, you can gradually relax and take a step back.
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    Prepare your child for what to expect at school. Help ready him for the daily routines, the expectations, and the fun and fears that are part of going to school. At the same time, you will be preparing yourself to let him go.[3]
    • Ask him about his doubts and fears and find common solutions to them. This will remind you that your child still needs you, but in a different way.
    • Talk with your child and explain what to expect in kindergarten or school.
    • Practice going to school by getting up early, packing a lunch and driving your child to the school. Show him where his classroom will be. This will help both of you to feel emotionally prepared when the day finally comes.
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    Fill the void in your schedule with something positive. Although you will surely still be plenty busy, you may feel like there is a void in your daily schedule with your child at school. Filling that gap with something gratifying for you will ease the transition and benefit you and your child in the long run.[4]
    • Even if you haven't actually gained any new time by your child heading off to school, now can be a good time to take up a new hobby. This time feels like a new phase in your life because it is, and it is therefore a great time to improve yourself, expand your horizons, or try something you've always wanted to do.
    • You will likely have ample opportunities to volunteer and otherwise be involved with your child's school. This can provide a positive outlet and establish a new bond with your child. However, be wary of using such opportunities to continue "hovering" over your child. Even at this tender age, you have to begin letting go bit by bit.

Part 2
Navigating the Teen Transition

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    Talk to your child about the physical changes she is going to go through. Your child is growing up, which becomes evident when you start noticing the physical changes in her body. Use your experience and compassion to help reassure and guide your child into this transition.[5]
    • The well-known physical changes that occur at this time are caused by the hormonal changes occurring in the body. The various endocrine glands produce hormones which bring about changes in the body.
    • These hormonal/physical changes are also accompanied by emotional and mental changes.
    • Be open to answering questions when the physical changes begin. Actually, it is best to begin discussing the physical changes before adolescence sets in. Tell her that these changes are normal and are a part of growing up. Be open and honest and answer all questions directly, despite any natural (and mutual) discomfort.[6]
    • While many schools conduct special sessions or classes when the children reach adolescence, don't rely on these alone. Combining school-learning on body changes with your own perspective will better prepare your child and encourage her to confide in and interact with you as the changes occur.
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    Prepare for the emotional ups and downs of this stage in your child’s life. The hormonal changes your child is going through directly affect the brain. Therefore her interests, wants, and needs will start changing. You can almost guarantee increased moodiness and irritability during this phase.[7]
    • She may want to be independent refuse to even talk to you about her day. The next day, she may demand all your attention and insist that you listen to her right now. Just listen. She will let you know if she needs your opinion or advice.
    • Know that your child loves you, even if she acts like a moody brat. These mood swings are due to the sudden and fluctuating hormonal levels in her body. But remember that just because your child is liable to bite your head off at the slightest provocation, this does not mean that she doesn't love you!
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    Show your child that you love and support her. If your child wants to try something new, give her your support. When she succeeds and when she fails, give her your support. In this way, emphasize your ongoing role as a parent and take part in her growing process.[8]
    • Her emotional mood swings may wreak havoc on your nerves, but remember that your child is also being affected by it. She is trying to develop her individual personality while coping with these changes, and needs all your support at this time.
    • No matter what the issue is, express yourself clearly to your child. Tell her that you love her and that you will always be there to support her. This will give her the anchor that she will look for during a crisis.
    • Always remember also that a child’s brain is not fully developed until she is in her early 20’s. This incomplete brain development can cause the emotional immaturity which so often frustrates parents.
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    Accept new relationships but establish boundaries. When children observe the changes in their bodies, they start experiencing a new and unfamiliar set of social experiences. This may manifest itself through new friendships and the emergence of romantic interests.
    • Keep the lines of communication open. When you’re accepting of your child’s choices and friends, she’ll be less likely to shy away from you and more likely to open up about what’s going on in her life.
    • Get ready for your child to start hanging out with new groups of kids. Teens tend to feel secure when they belong to a group. They may have a strong urge to become a part of a group of friends because they have not yet developed their own unique identity.
    • Make the effort to stay connected and spend time together. Try to have dinner together and chat. You want to be a friend.
    • However, you will also need to set limits, as children of this age tend to engage in risky behavior. Set clear borders between bad and good behavior, and healthy and unhealthy relationships.[9]
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    Realize that your child will not need you as much, or at least in the same ways. This is the time when your child will begin to show an increasing desire to be independent. She will, for instance, likely be spending more time with her friends than with you.[10]
    • Give your child space, but be there when she needs you. Give her space to breathe and to solve her own problems. If you are overprotective towards her and solving all her problems for her, she will be less capable of dealing with life's important issues.[11]
    • This is a good time to talk about money issues as well. Her weekly allowance probably no longer covers her desire to go out with friends to movies and meals. Discuss your household budget in a mature manner, and perhaps even help her find ways to make a little cash on the side. Earning her own money will build self-esteem and independence.
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    Address your own stress. Raising a child of any age is a stressful endeavor, but raising a teen may take the cake. While working to help her deal with her stress about the changes and challenges facing her, don't forget about working to manage your own stress as well. If you don't take care of yourself, you won't be able to take care of her. [12]
    • Make a point to focus on getting sufficient sleep, eating properly, exercising regularly, finding time to relax, seeking out enjoyable activities, and embracing the support of a spouse, sibling, friend, etc. in addressing the stress you feel.
    • Your child is watching you and learning from your example, even when she is a new teenager who seems intent on denying your very existence. Show her that taking care of one's mind and body is essential.

Part 3
Letting Your Adult Child Leave the Nest

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    Understand the concept of “empty nest syndrome”. You may think that you will be excited to have all the additional free time (and house space) that comes with your child moving out, only to find that you instead feel sad and adrift. Letting go, and adjusting afterward, are difficult to do, even when you know your child is ready.[13]
    • Acknowledge to yourself first that your child no longer needs your help on a day-to-day basis anymore. She may not prefer your company as much and you will not be privy to all the nuances of her life. This is normal and it’s normal to feel upset.
    • As a mature parent, understand the changes that are taking place in your adult child’s life. Know that your child loves you and does not mean to be spiteful.
    • It is normal to experience a feeling of loss at this time, even if you are lucky enough to still see you child regularly. Don't ignore or deny these feelings; accept them as a natural part of the parenting process. You have dedicated your life to protecting and nurturing this child, so it will inevitably be difficult to let her out of your grasp.
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    Make the effort to spend time together. When your child becomes an independent adult, it does not mean that she is gone from your life forever. Indeed, in some ways she may need you now more than ever. Make the most of the time you spend together, whether they are important dates or casual moments.[14]
    • Today's technology allows you to be in constant contact with your child, either on the phone or over the internet. Be in touch and stay a part of her life as an adult. However, don't overdo it (by calling every day, for instance), or you may alienate your child. Remember that she is in the midst of trying to figure out how to navigate life as an independent adult.
    • Make yourself available when she wants to talk or meet. Don't miss out on these opportunities, because you never know how often they will come again as your adult child's life gets ever busier.
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    Learn to let go. Do not cling to your adult child, trying to protect her from every harm. Give her the freedom to create her own mistakes and successes. We all learn best from our own experiences and our own mistakes.
    • Do not always jump to the rescue. Provide advice when requested, but more often simply offer sympathy and understanding. You do your adult child no favors by trying to solve all life's problems for her.[15]
    • Sometimes your very sound advice will be ignored, and you simply have to accept it as part of your child's process of living and learning.
    • Support your child’s career path, even if you hoped she would pursue a different career. Don't try to fulfill your dreams through your child. When a career is pursued with passion, the child becomes more confident about herself.
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    Get moving and get doing. Do things you weren't able to do when your child was at home. Parenting is serious business that requires giving your child all of your attention and having little time for yourself. Deal with the fact that your child has grown up by spending more time focusing on yourself.[16]
    • Find a hobby or do something you never had the time for when you had a child at home. Or, dedicate yourself to exercising and overall health, or devote greater attention to your career (especially if this brings you joy).
    • Plan time to hang out with your friends. In this way, you can compensate for a sense of loneliness through discussion and exchange of experiences.
    • Do things that you love to do. You will always be a parent, but never forget that you are a unique individual too. Remember all the dreams and ambitions that you had before your child was born? This is the time for you to start thinking and planning about it.
    • When you make a conscious effort to move ahead with your life after your child has grown up, you will not be at such a loss when she leaves home. "Empty nest syndrome" is difficult and painful to deal with, but it becomes easier if you have a little foresight and independent purpose in your life.

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Categories: Parenting