As children grow older, they gain more independence — it’s natural. From slumber parties to cell phones to your kid’s first crush, raising children can be both stressful and exhausting. Is it too much to ask that your kid have both freedom and safety — and that you retain your sanity? While there’s no magic trick to make worries go away, there are things you can do to calm your nerves.
Here are seven scenarios you’ll likely run into as your child grows, with tips for how to navigate them.
Ah, the day has come: Your child is getting their hands on their first cell phone. Most parents nowadays have mixed feelings about this milestone. On the one hand, it seems crazy for a young kid to have a cell phone. On the other hand, you’ll worry less if you have a way to contact them.
If a cell phone seems like too big a step for your child right now, consider a safe phone for kids. These safety-minded models have only the necessary features. Typically, calls and messaging are included, but not games or social media.
By limiting features, you won’t have to worry about screen addiction or your kid being negatively influenced by online content. Communication with those who matter most is the No. 1 thing a starter phone provides. If that’s all you want for your kid at the moment, that’s completely OK.
Your kids might roll their eyes at you when you question slumber parties, but they can be scary for parents. Sending your kid off to someone else’s house to spend the night? How many kids will be there? What are the parents like? What will the kids be doing? A million things will run through your mind, and you can only hope that your kid doesn’t get into trouble.
If slumber parties and sleepovers worry you, few strategies can help. First of all, let your kid do it on their own timeline. Make sure they feel completely ready by having a talk with them when the opportunity arises. Also, choose their first few sleepovers wisely. This will help you, as a parent, become more comfortable with overnight stays.
For the first few, stick with one-on-ones with very close friends or family members. Make sure you know and trust the parents and can contact them at any time to check-in. Don’t be afraid to lay down the law and explain the rules for your kid’s first time away from home. And lastly, make sure that if something makes them feel uncomfortable, they know you’re just a phone call away.
As a parent, hearing that another kid was mean to your kid can really set you off. Seeing them upset over it will break your heart. Unfortunately, bullying is more common than one might think. Many kids deal with something, and parents have to be prepared for this as their child gets older.
You will play an influential role in preventing bullying as much as possible. Be honest with your child when one of their friends rubs you the wrong way. Make it clear how friends and classmates should — and shouldn’t — treat each other. Tell your child when it’s time to go to the school counselor and not be ashamed of it.
At the end of the day, though, we’ve all had a bad friend. Painful as it is, sometimes kids need to experience these things independently before finding their true friends. Just make sure you’re there for them along the way. And always encourage open conversations so that your kid doesn’t keep their feelings bottled up.
As kids get older, they don’t want to share as much with their parents, which is a problem. But it’s especially a problem as it relates to education. The older your child is, the less you’ll know about what goes on in the classroom. When they were in elementary school, you might have received a paper-filled folder every week, but those days are behind you.
It’s your job to ensure your kid understands the importance of education. Whether they plan on going to college or not, they should work hard and try their best to achieve good grades. Also, do your part as a parent and attend conferences with teachers regularly.
If there’s an online portal for checking their class grades and assignments, take advantage of it. Reward good grades, and take corrective action if necessary. When they’re ready to graduate, you’ll be glad you kept tabs on them all those years.
Along with age comes puberty, puberty comes hormones, and hormones come dating and relationships. It’s a scary and somewhat sad time for any parent as they watch their baby grow up and pursue dating. When your kid develops their first unrequited crush, a part of your heart will ache with them. How do you help them through this time?
When it comes to dating and relationships, there is a lot to know. Probably more than you even know yourself. There are some great relationship advice books out there that can help your teen navigate these turbulent waters. While you should definitely talk with your kid about dating, directing them to other resources is also a good idea.
Before you know it, your child will turn 16. Soon after — maybe even that very day — they’ll have an appointment with the DMV.
Getting a driver’s license is a big milestone, and it’s a hard one for many parents to handle. Unfortunately, there’s nothing you can really do to stop it from happening. Most U.S. adults learn how to drive at some point, and most teens want to drive ASAP.
To make this timeless nerve-wracking, you’ll need to be fully involved. Teach your kid the rules of the road and make sure they’re ready to get out there on their own. In addition to driver’s ed courses, go for drives with them and ensure they get lots of practice. Pass along your driving wisdom and answer any questions they have. The more involved you are, the better prepared they’ll be.
Discovering that your kid got in trouble with alcohol is never a conversation you want to have. Learning that your kid has been using dangerous drugs? A parent’s worst nightmare. Be proactive and teach them about the dangers of drug use early on. Hopefully, this way, they won’t be interested in experimenting in the first place.
While you’ll certainly encourage your teen to stay away from alcohol, make sure they know their safety is your top priority. If they do slip up and get drunk at a party, tell them to call you anytime to be picked up. Your relief will vastly outweigh any disappointment you might feel at knowing they’ll get home unharmed.
As a parent, sometimes all you can do is sit back and hope that your child makes the right choices. Your job is to parent the right way, and at a certain point, your kid will decide how they’ll live their life. Take a deep breath and try to relax: You’re doing the best you can.