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Connecting with Changing Kids

The days are long, but the years are short.
– Gretchen Ruben

It’s strange that our kids seem to take forever to grow up, but at the same time, we blink and they are different.  Our kids are constantly changing and requiring something different from us.  As a parent, I feel like I’m lagging behind not realizing my girls are capable, maturing, and needing a different type of support from me than they needed even a week ago.

For example, it seemed like yesterday that I was reading silly stories to my girls and having a blast making different voices for the characters and helping explain things.  Now both girls are reading books and some of the books don’t even have pictures, they are chapter books.  I kind of miss those times and opportunities to connect.

Life has a way of constantly changing; and in a strange way as our kids go through years of dramatic development, we also are going through subtle changes.  Things that bring us together lose their magnetism and other forces start to exert a stronger influence.

The Bible is pretty direct in telling us that this isn’t a problem; it is a plan set up by God in which our kids will separate from us and eventually join another.  It is like a knife in which one relationship is severed to allow another to fully connect.

Our relationship with our children transitions from our kids being fully dependent on us to a point where we have to sever the dependance.  However, the great news is that a new relationship begins forming, even at an early age; yet, it requires a severing of dependence to come into it’s own.  This relationship is connected, not through dependence, but through love and free choice.

I want to also illustrate this idea by comparing it to a current.  This current is one that is fatal to resist, but through change can lead to survival; not in the same place as before, but in a new place.  This current is a rip tide.

Credit:  Mary Schmitt
Credit: Mary Schmitt

Rip tides are strange in that you really can’t feel that you are caught in one until you notice that you are being drawn out to sea and getting back to land becomes a matter of life and death.  I remember being 11 and watching my brothers and a friend being swept out to sea.  In their case, a lifeguard with a boat and line towed them in and saved the day; but I remember being stunned how my brothers (who were great swimmers) were losing the fight.  WikiHow has six steps for overcoming a riptide.  Two principles stand out:

  1. Don’t fight it. Instead, call for help and conserve your energy for the important work.
  2. Swim parallel to the shore in order to find calmer water that allows you to swim to shore without the resistance.

Too many of us try to keep things the same.  And when things start to change, we fight the change rather than realizing that change happens, and we need to adjust to the change rather than kill ourselves fighting it.  This is easier said than done because I tend to get frantic when I’m afraid.  My girls are growing up and getting independent.  They don’t need me as much as they used to and part of that makes it feel like I’m less relevant in their life.  I constantly remind myself that I don’t fight their independence, I focus my energy on the important work of influencing their independence.  Rather than focusing on keeping our relationship the same, I realize that I need to adapt and make adjustments that will lead to where I want to go.

So rather than fighting the loss of dependance, I focus on moving onto another plane which is relational.  It isn’t friendship, but is a rich parent and child relationship based on love, admiration, and excitement to see how this capable person I love and trust handles it.

In summary, here are some things I’m focused on:

  • Our kids are changing. Don’t fight the change, it will only damage your relationship.
  • Focus on developing trust, admiration, and expectation.
  • As they demonstrate maturity and responsibility, transition from teaching and discipline to mentoring and coaching.[/callout]

Question:  Why is it so hard to admit our kids are growing up?  How do you change as they change?