Childhood development is never static and is ever unfolding. Sometimes the big joke in parenting is sort of, “Wow! I just figured out this stage and now my child is on to something new!”
In my approach to development, I combine my ideas from when I worked as a pediatric physical therapist, studies from The Gesell Institute, and Waldorf education’s view of the child. Periods of equilibrium and disequilibrium routinely occur throughout development, typically with disquilibrium around the half-year marks, and pronounced differences in development typically most dramatically noted around 3 – 3 1/2, 6/7, 9 (talked about an awful lot in Waldorf literature) , 12 (although I don’t hear much about this one in parenting circles), and 15/16. I think 15/16 is by far the most difficult transtition.
Parents often ask what they need to be successful throughout all these changes as their child unfolds. In my personal opinion of working with families over the years, I think there are four things, mainly, that help this process of helping a child grow: having your own “stuff” under control (ever tried living with an alcoholic parent, narcissitic parent, etc? And not all of us have these things, but most all of us have wounds from living; just some of us own those wounds and try to make this woundedness better for ourselves and the people who love us); affectionate love and connection to our children (and to your partner if you have one); loving boundaries; rhythm (which is a defining hallmark of whatever your own family culture is!). I don’t think it is is about perfection; I don’t think it is about doing everything just right. A child growing up is also a family growing up and adults developing and changing too.
It is never too late to do these four things. All of us can become more self-aware and work on what our wounds and triggers are; nearly all of us can work to become more peaceful and compassionate. It is never too late to connect to and love your children. Children have love languages just like adults do, but most children I know certainly perceive love in time and attention. I read a few psychology sources that state even just 15-20 mintues of concentrated time a day is important; other sources like this Washington Post article from 2015 talk about how quality is more important than quantity, how family practices like dinners together do matter, and how teens need to spend time with their parents. We can learn how to hold boundaries; I think I started seriously writing about boundaries back in 2008 and have written many posts on boundaries since then. This one and this big list of boundaries are among my favorites. Finally, it is never too late to discover your values as a family and prioritize those with your time (this is the beginnings of rhythm and habit!).
In this month often associated with love due to St. Valentine’s Day, let us love our children enough to help them grow in the healthiest ways possible!
Blessings and love,