Summer is finally here! People are out and Chicago is bustling.
For some Chicago parents, summer is exciting because the kids are out of school; for others, it is overwhelming for this very same reason. Whatever your stance, summer also tends to be a time when parents contemplate their relationships with their children, especially those children moving into adolescence. The question often asked is, "What happened to my child? He's growing up so fast."
Yes, it's true; children grow up. When children start to make the move from latency to adolescence, parents usually have mixed feelings. While they are excited to see their little ones growing up and becoming their own individuals, it can also feel sad to watch them move away.
No longer is it easy to connect with your child by pulling him or her up on your lap to read a book or by working together on an art project. Gone are the days your child needs you for almost everything. Welcome the time when your child values the opinions of friends, tries out new identities, and is less interested in you. The move into pre-adolescence and adolescence does not mean your child stops loving you or does not want to be with you; it just means the relationship is different.
Even in adolescence, children need boundaries, structure, and the love, protection, and guidance of their parents. It is important for parents to still talk with their children and, more importantly, listen to them when they have something to say. Parents can offer random words of encouragement and praise to their children, empathize with their worries, tolerate their frustrations, and acknowledge their feelings even when the children are mad at the parents. They can take an interest in what their children are doing, plan time with them to do what their children like to do (e.g., shopping along the Magnificent Mile, bike riding in Humboldt Park, catching a Cubs or Sox game, etc.), and give them some freedom to make choices, trusting these will be good ones. All these things help to maintain ties with children and support their development as they move through adolescence.
So, for those whose feelings have been stirred with the onset of summer and with mixed feelings about their children moving into adolescence, do not worry. The relationship is just moving to the next level. Enjoy the summer in the city and the new relationship with your children.
-- Denise Duval, PhD, LCSW