Every milestone in our children’s lives will always bring happiness, fulfillment, and wonderful memories for us to cherish. However, it is also a sign that our little ones are growing up. And for most parents, it can be very difficult to watch our children grow. One time we are their heroes, next thing you know, we are no longer the center of their world.
This reality personally struck me when my son turned seven. For his birthday celebration, my husband and I put together a video of his different milestones from the time he first learned how to crawl, his first attempt to jump into the swimming pool until his very first day in school. Watching those moments made me smile and cry at the same time. It felt good to know that we were there to witness these different stages, yet I also felt a sense of sadness at the same time. Deep inside I panicked, “why is he growing up too fast?”.
Tetet Franco-Donato, 39, married for 15 years and a mother of three (Joey, 14; Toby, 6; and Theo, 1), shares her thoughts on this: “A lot of kids now seem to be in a hurry to grow up. I'm thankful that none of my kids are in a hurry, and we are blessed that way. Having said that, I feel that the world we live in now has a lot of influence with regard to how fast kids grow up, and I'm not sure whether that is good or bad.”
Let’s face it, change is inevitable. No matter how much we wish for our kids to stay our babies forever, they will have to grow up and be the person they are meant to be. As parents, it is our role to raise them up to be mature, responsible individuals, not hinder their growth. We should guide them through their different life stages and prepare them to face the future ahead. Nobody said that parenting would be easy especially if we have to deal with the reality that one day our kids will be living their own lives.
“There were times when Jun (my husband) and I felt that we already knew what changes we would encounter, possessing a sense of solid readiness.” shares Tetet. “Yet, we've also learned that, given that each child is unique, curve balls will always be thrown our way. Tiring at times, but always worth it. With the numerous challenges that families face today in society, we find ourselves often fearful for their future.”
Here are a few ways to cope with this reality and give the proper support our kids need to grow as mature and responsible individuals:
1. Take a step back and allow your child to be independent. The most difficult part for most parents is to detach from their children. We have been used to keeping a protective watch over them, doing things for them, having them depend on us for almost everything.
Our children need room to grow and discover things on their own to help them become more responsible individuals in the future. Being independent doesn’t mean they don’t need us anymore; rather, it is a sign that our children are learning and that we should be proud of them for exploring their growing abilities. Our loving support is highly important for our kids to learn independence, instead of making them feel that we are always worrying about them.
Start with simple tasks like allowing them to do their homework on their own, dress up by themselves, or teaching them to do simple chores at home.
2. Teach them to build and value relationships. Assure our children that no matter what, even if they’re already grown-ups, we will always be there for them. We will continue to be their source of love, guidance, and inspiration whenever they need us. Letting them experience this kind of bond and confidence early on will give them the necessary assurance that it is okay to grow up. At the same time, it will give us parents a sense of security knowing that our kids will learn to value their relationships with family members for years to come.
Encourage them also to keep a healthy relationship with other family members, too. We also need to guide them in building and establishing relationships on their own. Start by teaching them to make friends and how to be a good friend to others. Schedule playdates and playground time or support them in their school activities and interaction with classmates. Positive relationships are necessary for a healthy growth since it gives them opportunities to learn from others beyond the confines of the home.
3. Help them to make their own decisions. We, parents, should realize that as our kids grow older, we cannot always decide for them. Of course, it’s never easy to just let them make their own choices, but sooner or later, they will have to make decisions on their own.
Allowing our kids to decide on their own develops their confidence in themselves. In the long run, they won’t be easily persuaded and influenced by other people because they will also learn how to trust themselves once they gain that confidence.
As early as the toddler years, we can already start to guide them by giving them options to choose from. For instance, we can let our kids decide which shirt to wear or which bedtime storybook they want to read, or even ask them to choose the theme for their birthday party by providing them options. Later on, we will need to gradually let them make their own decisions based on their particular life stage and situations. It may be difficult for us, but we need to remind ourselves that we should not deprive them of the opportunity to learn, and to face the joys and consequences of these decisions.
4. Keep track of every important milestone. One of the reasons why most parents feel that children are growing up too fast is the fear of missing out on certain aspects of their lives. Perhaps we are too pre-occupied with work? We might be too stressed balancing all our priorities and concerns, or leaving our children too much with their “yayas”? Instead of panicking and asking ourselves, “why is my child growing so fast?”, let us instead cherish each moment.
Appreciate your child's growth and development instead of worrying too much about the future. Whenever possible, be there for your child, especially during the critical stages of his growth. Let us not allow ourselves to be robbed of the present by dreading what lies ahead.
Keep mental and even physical memories of your children’s milestones – his first crawl, first trip to the dentist, first words, even the struggles of feeding him his first solid meal, first fight with a playmate, the tantrums. Yes, even the difficult times are worth keeping for they present a realistic picture of their childhood. These memories will be our treasure for a lifetime and will keep us connected to our children even if they’re already grown-up.
5. Keep your emotions in check. It is important to maintain a positive disposition as we face the realities of our children growing up. Even if we feel sad or worried, we need to show our kids that we are happy with what they have achieved and accomplished. Be proud of every milestone and be there to further encourage them.
As they face the changes and new challenges in their lives, they also need to draw strength from their parents. We should not hinder their growth by being over-protective or paranoid. Let us instead build up their self-confidence and promote a positive view of what to expect. More importantly, let us engage them in healthy talk or discussion of how life is as a grown up. Set the right expectations without dampening their spirits. Be as open and honest as possible and prepare them for every new phase.
No matter what, we will always look at our children as if they were born yesterday. That is why we should enjoy every moment we have now with them. As they journey through life, we will continue to be a part of it. When our kids grow up, things will be different but if we have fulfilled our roles well as parents, our connection and bond will never fade.