Parenting can be one of the most challenging and the most rewarding life experiences. Most parents periodically worry about whether they are doing a good-enough job with their kids, whether they've caused damage with mistakes they've made, whether their kids are growing into well-adjusted and happy people, and other similar concerns. The good news is that our kids don't need us to be perfect parents. They just need good-enough parenting - parents who are responsive to their needs in a caring and understanding manner most of the time. Children can tolerate the inevitable disruptions in family life and the times when we just plain get it wrong as long as we repair the resulting disconnect in our relationship. Conscious parenting means being intentional and purposeful in how we interact with our kids to ensure their healthy development. This requires us to be tuned in to our kids' changing needs as they move through the stages of growing up, and willing to make adjustments in how we parent to match the current challenges and developmental stage of each child.
Parenting Young Children (Birth - 5 yrs)
In this stage, conscious parenting is focused on providing structure and lots of loving support for our children as they learn about their world and who they are. This is a trying stage for many parents, especially when they have more than one child, because children seem to need our constant attention. During these formative years, our kids are forming the psychological templates that will structure their relationships for the rest of their lives. Their primary developmental tasks at this stage include learning to trust that the world is generally a safe place and that they can count on others to be there when they need help. They are also tasked with building a sense of competency and initiative as they learn to do more and more things for themselves. Parents in this stage are very familiar with their child's assertions that "I can do it by myself!"
Parenting School-Aged Children (5-12 yrs)
In this stage, conscious parenting is focused on giving our children plenty of opportunities to build their self-confidence and sense of personal power. Kids build these capacities through experiencing success in solving their own problems, meeting challenges creatively, and achieving positive results for their efforts. Their primary developmental task in this stage is learning to believe in themselves and their ability to influence their world. They are also learning to navigate social relationships and the complexities of social relating. Conscious parents help their children assume appropriate responsibility in their lives, make age-appropriate decisions, and encourage their child's developing sense of self.
Parenting Teens (13 - 18 yrs)
During the teen years, conscious parenting is focused on supporting our teen's emerging identity as they try on many different roles and behaviors. The primary developmental task of adolescence is establishing a separate identity from their parents. This necessarily entails questioning everything from their parents' values and belief systems to the authority imposed on them by parents, teachers and other adults in their world as they strive to define who they are. Parents often fear the teen years, but these years do not have to be filled with conflict and strife. By keeping a curious and interested stance about your teen's increasingly independent life, parents can remain a valuable and necessary source of support for their teen. They need our support more than ever as they move through the challenges of adolescence, even though they don't always say so.
Parenting Young Adults (18+)
If your child does not move away for college right after high school, chances are you may be one of the many parents who find themselves actively parenting young adult children. This stage brings a new set of challenges, as young adults may be resistant to rules they had as teenagers, such as curfews and household chores, and parents struggle with their conflicting desires for their kids to launch and to stay connected. The primary developmental tasks in this stage of life are establishing meaningful relationships and eventually forming their own households. Conscious parents support and encourage their young adult children to become increasingly self-reliant as they assume more adult roles in life.