How do you know if you have got it right with your children? How do you judge if you are a successful parent as you watch your child grow up? What mistakes and pitfalls can you avoid and what ones are inevitable? These questions and many more are always in the mind of you as a parent. What you do know is that you want to be the best parent possible to your child.
So where do you start? Right at the beginning, as soon as your child is able to communicate with you. This is the door through which you must walk with your child and never let it close on you. Open communication between you as your child grows up, will allow you to overcome virtually every problem that presents itself to you. In fact even before issues become problems.
As a parent, never have any subject which cannot be discussed openly by you and your child, however uncomfortable it is for you. Strategies like always having a special time of the day when you talk about what has gone on, for both you and your child, will really work. This could be at supper time, or when you child is in bed, or those tender moments just before going to bed. You will find that this lays the foundation for a very strong relationship as your child grows up, and will make your bond together unshakeable.
At these special times, you also need to be telling your child your daily challenges as he needs to be able to relate and understand your world. Of course you need to tailor what you say depending on his age. You say your bit and encourage him to say whatever he wants to. You will be amazed at what you learn. The conversations will change as your child grows older, but will always be open and frank. Those key links you build together will always work whether your child is 2 or 22.
It is really worth making the effort on this, and you and your child will have created a bond which will help you both, and enhance your relationship together for the rest of your lives.
When your child becomes a teenager, the dynamics of your relationship changes dramatically, so you need to evolve and become a different kind of role model. He will be mixing with a wide variety of individuals independently of you and it is important that you remain consistent in how you behave towards him. ‘Work hard … play hard’, is a very important philosophy you need to get through to your teenager, and to do this, you must lead by example.
As he will be trying new things during these years and following your example (where it suits him of course) try to avoid doing anything to excess yourself. While he needs to understand that he can enjoy himself, this must be linked to working hard, particularly at school. Therefore, he needs to see the example of ‘normal acceptable behaviour’ coming from his father.
It is vitally important that your child feels he can still communicate with you openly while he is a teenager. So this will be one of your biggest challenges during the next few years. So keeping all lines of communication open between you both is vital, and will influence strongly how your relationship with him develops. However difficult and awkward the subject is, you can never have a ‘bad conversation’ with your child, only a good one, even if it doesn’t feel like it at the time. With all the challenges facing him during this period of his life, this is where you will really benefit from the investment in time and effort you made with him during his earlier years.
It is during that period where you have laid the foundations, to allow you to stay connected during the extremely challenging times ahead of you. Your child is still very vulnerable when he is a teenager, but he neither believes nor realises this, and he will get sick of hearing you telling him this. He will be rebellious and very difficult to manage at times, so, your role really is to guide him through this stage of his life. Don’t worry, he will come out the other side, every child does, and hopefully with a sense of independence and respect for you, his mother, as well as other people. He will need this sense of value and perspective when he becomes an adult.
When children reach the teenage years, or even early adulthood, very often they long for things that they had when they were very young. These things give them certainty, particularly during the period of their lives when they are most insecure. As your child sees herself changing both physically and mentally, it can be very difficult for her to manage, so she thinks back to things that have comforted her in the past and which made her feel happy and secure.
These could be things like an old cuddly toy, a blanket, a special chair, or her favourite doll. If it is your son, it could be an old toy car or plane. But whatever it is, you as a Father must resist the temptation to stop her having this comfort item. Of course you won’t do it deliberately, but try to avoid making her feel that she is weak or inadequate in some way, for needing something she had as a Toddler. Remember this gives her certainty during a time when she is at her most vulnerable psychologically and also adapting to her changing physical appearance.
Her childhood is changing, the old times as a little child are becoming more distant, everything is in a state of flux. The nature of her relationship with you and her mother is different now, not to mention those with her friends and potential new boyfriends or if you have a son, girlfriends. So if an old cuddly toy, or special chair, or even an old bed can make your child feel better about herself, don’t discourage it. In fact be really supportive and even actively try to help her find what she is looking for. She will thank you for being so understanding, although, as a teenager, she may not want to admit it quite yet….