The grand adventure of parenting includes several changes along the journey.
Kids experience incremental changes throughout childhood as they move from dependence to independence. Babies grow up and become preschoolers who transition into elementary school, then middle school, and on to high school.
Supporting children through these transitions is key to their physical, emotional and mental health and well-being. Parents need support, too. Keep these ideas in your parenting toolkit as you build a strong foundation for your relationship with your child through all their ages and stages.
Baby to Toddler to Preschool
The first transitions may feel the hardest without any comparison. The first time you drop off your little one at a childcare provider, or when they start a new “big kid” class at daycare or preschool, can squeeze your heart. Allow yourself space to feel your feelings, knowing your child is in good hands. Distraction and redirection can help little ones move through their own feelings about the transition. In no time it will just be another part of the routine.
Moving from infant-in-arms to chasing after a toddler or preschooler requires your parenting strategy to shift from the baby being physically close to removing hazards and keeping things as safe as possible for perpetually-in-motion little ones.
Kindergarten, Here We Come
Middle childhood to adolescence is marked by where a child is in school. Going to Kindergarten is a rite of passage. The transition can be scary and exciting at the same time. Reading children’s books or watching TV episodes together that touch on the theme of going to school for the first time can be invaluable and help start the conversation.
Elementary to Middle to High School
During this time of kid-to-tween-to-teen, peers become much more important to children. Finding social independence and personal identity separate from their parents is a natural part of this phase of growth and development.
Each new grade is an opportunity for transition—celebrations and saying goodbye. The bigger leaps to middle and high school may require more thoughtfulness for parents and students. Make space—for you and your child—to mourn or grieve the loss of childhood and the changes that are happening. Also, make space to look forward to and recognize all the wonderful parts of growing up.
Keep connecting and finding common ground with your child as they mature and find independence. Some ideas:
- Be fully present—limit electronic use when you’re together.
- Know that staying connected via text or other messaging can be a great touch point when you’re not physically together.
- Set clear boundaries and enforce them in kind and compassionate ways.
- Don’t take hard words or outbursts personally, as tweens and teens are mirroring their internal feelings. Get a little distance before addressing your own hurt feelings when you can.
Wellness Checks Provide Ongoing Support
Wellness visits help lay the foundation for a healthier future for children. These appointments provide dedicated time for vaccines, general guidance, growth checks, developmental surveillance, disease screening, mental health assessment, and discussion about social and educational performance.
Download our guide to Wellness Checks from Newborn to Teenage Years with a complete vaccine schedule designed to help you prepare for your child’s upcoming visits. Write down any concerns you have so your pediatrician can answer all your questions.
Take Care of Yourself
Kids need their parents to be healthy, and grown-ups need doctors, too. You can’t fill up others from an empty cup, so be sure to take care of yourself. That includes regular check-ups and health screenings, but also regularly taking time for self-care.
Enjoy the bigger picture of raising your children, keeping yourself from getting bogged down by the daily hassles. Patience and keeping it all in perspective can help you maintain emotional stability through every transition that comes your way, both expected and unexpected.
Time flies whether you’re having fun or if you’re in the trenches dealing with a particularly hard part of parenting. Keep in mind that this, too, shall pass.