My husband and I did something totally out of the ordinary last weekend. We went to a retirement symposium. Even though we aren’t ready to retire quite yet, we are “thinking” about it.
Of course, the main focus of the seminar was all about financial stability and being able to have our dream retirement. But one workshop that day had me thinking totally different. It wasn’t “Can I retire?” It was “What will I do when I retire?”
So how does this apply to parenting?
Let’s face it, parenting is full of different stages and if we aren’t careful, the times when we should transition will sneak up on us and we won’t be prepared. That’s why we need to be “thinking” before the next stage so that we have a plan for what we will do.
Take Kara for example. She had a great kid through the late elementary years. She thought life kept getting better with her daughter. Whatever she asked her daughter to do, it was usually met with compliance. As her daughter moved to middle school she started having an attitude by refusing to comply with her mother’s wishes. The more Kara tried to direct her, the more defiant Ava seemed to become. Thankfully, Kara knew the signs of adolescence and had been thinking about the transition. She knew it was time to start coaching toward adulthood rather than directing her daughter’s day. With time and patience she started to see Ava soften toward her again. “Not quite like the elementary years,” she mentioned. “But good.”
While Kara had been thinking about the transition with Ava, she hadn’t thought about her own transition. In the past she did a lot of volunteer work at Ava’s school and Ava and Kara would hang out a lot in the evenings. As Ava started having more autonomy and volunteer opportunities didn’t seem to be a good fit since Ava wanted to be more independent from her mom, Kara didn’t know quite what to do with her extra time. Kara started noticing that she was snacking more throughout her day and spending more time on her phone. She wasn’t ready to get a job because she wanted to be at home when Ava came home from school, and she admitted feeling a little bit like I’m not needed anymore.
Most women I talk with have mentioned a feelings of restlessness when parenting transitions occur. It’s as if we have lost our sense of purpose, especially if we are a stay-at-home mom.
So what would I encourage you to do?
- Talk to parents with older kids. Find out how they made the transitions and when they moved from directing to coaching.
- Put a transition plan in place for your tween and teen and discuss it with your spouse. What freedoms will you give and when? Then communicate it with your kids.
- Put a plan in place for you. When your kids start being more autonomous what will you spend time doing that is separate from them? Think hobbies, volunteer work, maybe part-time or full-time work.
- As God to help you define your next step.
Remember that transitions occur more often as our kids get older — high school graduation, off to college, summer breaks, graduation from college, young single life, married life, grand kids, career moves and ultimately retirement. These will disrupt our normal and send us back to the drawing board with our plans.
For the record, this is where I’m at in my own life with huge transitions taking place.
- My oldest is moving to Switzerland within the next few months taking his wife and our only grandson. While it is an exciting career opportunity for them, I know that I’ll go through a period of loss through the transition. Several weeks ago we transitioned to having our 16 month old grandson under our roof and in a few months we’ll notice the silence. I’m asking myself, “How will I combat the silence and fill my days?”
- As many of you know, my youngest has had some major medical issues and has been at home for the last two years with me being his major source of transportation and emotional support. He had his last surgery in December and is starting to move forward in his life. Thankfully he started a part-time job last week and is hoping to return to college in the fall. And I’m asking myself, “What’s next God?”
Asking God to help us in these transitions is important in helping our kids become more mature and determining what God has purposed us to do in the next phase of our life. Our next job is to listen for His still small voice to make sure we’re on the right track.
God has purpose for all of us and these transitions not only help our children develop maturity but they also grow us.
The prudent see danger and take refuge, but the simple keep going and pay the penalty.
For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the LORD, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.
Dare you to start thinking about the next stage of parenting and start planning for both your teen and you.
“Let go…and Let God”,