There are a lot of “firsts” in the very early years of parenting. First smiles, first words and first steps are among the many new things parents get to witness and document. While those are exciting milestones, perhaps some of the most important “firsts” in children’s lives come when they are faced with decision-making for the first time, outside of their parents’ shelter.
Sleepovers, R-rated movies, school dances, dates, and time driving alone are just a few of the nerve-wracking firsts parents face. While parents cannot be involved for every new experience their kids encounter as they grow, they can empower their children to make smart choices, be safe, and still cultivate their own independence.
Here are some tips for preparing your child, and yourself, for the inevitable firsts of growing up:
Do not assume that your kids know where to set boundaries. Before they head out on that first date or attend the post-prom party, remind them what you expect in their behavior. Try to make it a conversation between the two of you, and less of a lecture. Do not threaten them with punishment, but let them know that there will be time to experience grown-up things, but in the meantime, they should enjoy being young safely and responsibly.
Have an open door.
Make sure that your kids feel comfortable coming to you to ask the difficult questions of life without fear of punishment. This does not mean that you should let every action slide but you should make sure that if they make mistakes, you are there to help pick up the pieces.
Talk to a friend.
Perhaps you are friends with the parents of some of your kids’ friends—take advantage of your shared knowledge and camaraderie to make it through “first” experiences. If you do not have these connections, seek out family members or colleagues who have older kids that can give you some firsthand advice.
Remember that growing up happens to everyone. It is bittersweet for parents to watch their kids transform into young adults but there is no way to slow the process. Instead of trying to hold your kids back or keep them in a bubble, show them how to be responsible in adolescence so that when they finally do leave your nest, they are ready to be successful adults.
Above all, keep in mind that parenting doesn’t stop when kids start to enter adulthood—it just changes. With the right adjustments, you can ensure your child blossoms into their young adult years and that you make it out in one piece, too.