This month my daughter turned 18 and I still can’t quite believe it. It’s been a moment to reflect on what I have learnt about parenting.
Here are my 5 top tips:
- Keep talking no matter what. No matter what is going on, or how hard things are, or how many arguments you are having. Even when something dramatic has happened or they have made (in your opinion) a catastrophic error of judgement. Or done something you don’t like. Keep the lines of communications open, be the bigger person. Apologise first and start again.
- Have conversations when they want to. Even if you are just getting ready for bed, or in the middle of something. Teens speak so rarely that it is important that you listen and show up when they need you. Hear what they actually say. Let them know that you are there for them.
- Be your own parent – don’t let how you were treated affect how you will parent your own children. Decide what sort of parent you want to be. And then live that way. Don’t follow a path just because ‘my mum always did that’ or worse still ‘it never did me any harm’. I was so determined that I would not be like my own mother that I spent a lot of the early years focussing on what I didn’t want. And as NLP practitioners will tell you – you need to focus on what YOU WANT, how YOU WANT to behave. When I heard that advice I changed the way I parented. I chose to be positive, fun, open, communicative.
- Listen to the young people – they can teach you so much, especially about the modern world. They can keep you up to date. They call it reverse mentoring, listen to them. You might not agree with everything, but hear their voice and encourage them to grow their own opinions and help them to verbalise them in a safe place.
- Don’t expect them to be like you or behave like you did at the same age. I kept thinking that ‘when I was 15 I was doing this or that’ and comparing. My kids are very different and that’s no bad thing. They are being themselves. Don’t have any expectations that they will do as you did. I was running away from the toxic environment in my home life when I was kid. Our children feel safe and comfortable in our home and are not desperate to leave or drink huge amounts! Be grateful for that.
Above all value the time you have. My daughter is about to sit her A levels and is getting offers for university places, this time next year she will be away, flying the nest, living her life. The exact thing that me and my husband have been helping her to do since we first brought her home from the hospital. So, treasure the time, all of it, the good, the bad, the mundane and embrace the whole experience.