I recently wrote an article for a parenting magazine, and was asked to give parents advice on how to help their kids finish the school year strong. As I wrote, I saw the parallel in my own life. For almost two weeks Gene and I have been empty nesters. Our middle daughter was married at the end of December, and the other two are away at college. I am finished with my stay-at-home-mom career. Did I finish strong? I think so. Nowhere near perfect, but strong, active, loving, and influential in our girls’ lives.
When kids are young and through their junior high years, it’s easy to think we will always be parents of “at-home” kids. We can’t even imagine taking a shower without interruption, cleaning the bathroom and having it stay clean, or having a whole day where we don’t drive someone somewhere. But, to be an effective mom and finish strong, you need to look ahead and prepare now (trust me on this!). If you are a mom, your current stage may have you hanging on for dear life–but a slight shift in your perspective will prepare you more fully for your fast approaching future.
What do I wish I would have known when Katie, our oldest, was in the sixth grade?
* The “best” parenting in the world will not produce a perfect child, so quit trying to be the perfect parent! There are neither perfect parents nor perfect kids. Give yourself some grace. Give your kid some grace.
* Your children are quite unique—maybe one (or all of them!) is very different from you. Study each of your kids. Keep a little notebook if you need to of what you observe—
- Their likes, their dislikes.
- What makes him light up?
- What makes her shut down?
- Who puts a smile on her face?
- Who makes him withdraw?
- Is she high energy?
- Does he have an inner rhythm—always humming, dancing, or “playing the drums”?
- Does she like to talk to you at bedtime or when working on a project?
* Time spent with your kids is more important and valuable to them than any sports team, dance lesson, performance, etc. Don’t sacrifice family and relationships for extracurricular activities (including church ones).
* The issue you see is often the tip of something brewing in the heart and mind of your child rather than the issue itself. I know. I hate that too. I like to address an issue head on—let’s fix this and move on. Whoa! That won’t work when you are dealing with something deeper than mere disobedience. Knowing your kid and having a real relationship with him is so important. Take time to talk with your child, look in his eyes, listen not only to his words, but to his heart. Is your child’s room messy because he’s being defiant or because he’s overwhelmed on how to clean it? Both reasons require you to take the time and help him work through and resolve both the piles of clothes and the emotional weight they put on him.
* Don’t fret about the future. God will give you grace and what you need for the future that He brings to you.
I know each of these issues could be a chapter, and books have been written on these topics. My goal is not to solve all your problems, but to alert you that maybe it’s time to pull off to the side of your parenting journey for a few minutes and re-evaluate where you’re going and how you’re getting there.
Brenda Garrison is an author and speaker who empowers women with the confidence to live their calling. Brenda is currently pursuing a Bachelor of Science Degree in Ministry Leadership with a Concentration in Women’s Ministry at Moody Bible Institute. She and her husband, Gene, are the parents of three young adult daughters and live near Metamora, IL.