Parenthood is an ever-winding road. It might feel like you are never just “coasting,” because there is always something new to see, learn, and discover. Robert Breault said, “Parenting is a stage of life’s journey where the milestones come about every fifty feet.”
In the newborn phase of parenting, you are faced with the around-the-clock hunger cues, coffee chugging after sleepless nights, middle-of-the-night diaper explosions, trying to figure out what each cry means, and adjusting to the changing needs of the family as a whole.
In the toddler phase, you begin to encounter toddler tantrums, scaring off the “monsters” under the bed, the intense journey of potty training, and navigating the molding and shaping of this beautiful, unique, and ever-emerging personality.
In the pre-adolescent phase, you are challenged with helping your child discover their independence, nurturing them on their faith journey, and answering the tumultuous questions that fill their growing minds.
In the teenage years, you are confronted with their first loves, first heartbreaks, first jobs, the constant invitations to social events. You’re figuring out curfews, cell phones, social media, planning and dreaming for the future, chasing their academic, social, or athletic dreams, and trying to figure out how to get that child who was previously a chatterbox to utter more than four words to you after a long day.
In the young adult years, you begin discovering what it means for your child to spread their wings and fly. As they embark on their own journeys, you try to decide when to step in – and when to step back
Parenting is a journey particular to each family as both adult and child personalities are unique. While every parenting journey is a one-of-a-kind story, every parent will face an abundance of obstacles.
You will face obstacles with each child as you try to love and nurture them based on their emotional, spiritual, and physical makeup. You will face obstacles in your marriage and personal life as you try to figure out how to balance parenthood, marriage, faith, work, social life, and household responsibilities.
You may face a series of spiritual obstacles, trying to figure out why your child believes what they do, or why your family is bombarded with trial after trial. Perhaps you have your own childhood baggage that weighs heavy on you at various times in your child’s life, reminding you of what you did not have or what you promised you would do differently.
4 Parenting Tips for Every Stage of the Journey
As you continue to navigate the difficulties of your parenting journey, here are four parenting tips to apply to your journey right now:
1. Own your parenting journey and your child’s uniqueness.
It can be all-too easy to want our children to fit into a certain mold. We want them to be at the top of the academic charts while maintaining an appropriate social, church, and extra-curricular balance. What is critical to remember, however, is that a main goal of parenting should not be to mold our children into who we want them to be, but to help them discover who God created them to be.
We can start by encouraging and supporting their dreams, and by frequently acknowledging the goodness and beauty we see in them. We can raise them to prioritize a relationship with Christ over things of this world.
We can empower our kids to be world-changers who try to find positive solutions to problems, rather than complain about everything happening in the world. We can stand by our children when they face a variety of crossroads and teach them how to approach difficult decisions with wisdom and discernment.
We can help them learn difficult lessons in a home filled with love and forgiveness. We can let them ask hard and honest questions about who God is, and about what it means to be a Christ-follower in a hurting and broken world.
As you take these steps and embrace the uniqueness of your parenting journey and of each child, you will find yourself better equipped to face the inevitable challenges, and more able to find joy along the way.
2. Prioritize your marriage in every phase of parenthood.
As a variety of concerns consume your time, from newborn feeding schedules to carpooling multiple children to sports, school, and social activities, every parent can agree that raising children keeps you on the go and more focused on your to-do list more than on having regular date nights with your spouse. And yet, raising a family is more than just taking care of your children – it is prioritizing your mate and investing in your marriage.
You are a stronger team when you are united and connected. Your children learn about a Christ-centered marriage by seeing it lived out. Your children learn more about proper affection and communication habits by seeing it modeled day-in and day-out. Regardless of what phase of parenting you are in, your relationship with your spouse needs to be a priority in your everyday life.
Go on dates. Kiss hello and goodbye in front of your children. Pray together as a couple and as a family. Say “I love you” to one another in front of your children. Make intimacy a priority. Talk positively about your spouse in front of your children. Investing in your marriage is investing in the betterment and health of your entire family.
3. Do not put your relationship with Christ on the back burner.
When the children’s emotions are running rampant and the toddler tantrums are in full effect, you might find yourself craving, or begging for a moment of inner peace. We often hear about self-care and taking time to mentally rejuvenate, but it is vital to realize that the true health of a family is found in Jesus. He is the key to emotional, physical, and spiritual health. He is the answer to finding true peace in the chaos of life.
Whatever phase of parenting you are in, invest in your relationship with Christ. Take time to listen to the voice of God through his word. Journal your thoughts and prayers. Attend church and fellowship with other believers. Turn up the worship music in the car and just sing your heart out to God (even if the kids are listening).
You are raising the next generation of parents, teachers, and world-changers. What a task!
4. Know it’s okay to ask for help.
In a time when we often feel pressured to have it all together, it is important to realize that every journey and relationship is best when it is authentic and willing to accept the arms reaching out to support you in your journey.
It’s okay to ask someone to help you with carpool. It’s okay to rock a messy bun in the pickup line. It’s okay if you do not sign up for all the classes, sports, and extracurriculars. It’s okay if you need to ask your spouse to take one child to soccer practice while you take care of the sick child or stay home and cook dinner.
It’s okay if you need to cry and call out to God because you are unsure of how to navigate this season of parenting. It’s okay if you need to ask grandparents to watch the children for a few hours or a night so you can go on a date with your spouse. It’s okay if you need to order pizza because you are too tired to cook when company is coming over.
It’s okay if you need to use grocery pickup instead of shopping in-store to alleviate some of the stress. It’s okay if your house is in complete disarray when your friend comes over. It’s okay if you re-run the dishwasher because you forgot you already did.
It’s okay if you need to talk to a counselor to aid you in your journey – whether you are trying to overcome an abusive childhood, seeking guidance on ministering to your child’s personality, or just trying to establish an appropriate life balance.
Own your journey. Aim for authenticity over perfection. Be intentional in caring for your marriage and your spiritual well-being. Ask for help when you need it. Schedule your appointment with a professional counselor today to prioritize your emotional and spiritual health.
“Golden Hug”, Courtesy of Helena Lopes, Unsplash.com; CC0 License; “Mother and Daughter”, Courtesy of Mathilde Langevin, Unsplash.com, CC0 License; “Father and Son”, Courtesy of Mieke Campbell, Unsplash.com, CC0 License; “Hand and Baby”, Courtesy of Liv Bruce, Unsplash.com; CC0 License