It’s been over 10 years since reading Goodnight Moon was an evening routine with my son and daughter. Following long days of playing and taking care of two toddlers, I would tuck them into bed around their favorite stuffed animals and blankets. At their request, we’d open our worn copy of Margaret Wise Brown’s book—a book they knew so well they could recite the words along with me.
The furry little creature had his own routine in the book scurrying around the room—a different place on every page. Chubby little fingers would trace his route and when he couldn’t be found, we would guess that he had left to discover his own adventures under the moonlight.
Now at 14 and 16, my teenaged son and daughter are only a few years away from heading out on their own adventures, which makes me a little sad. That’s not to say there isn’t conflict—as a parent of any teen knows, we wish the biggest issue now was a toddler’s tantrum.
Yet knowing they will be out on their own, I try to savor these years by remembering the following:
- Optimize mealtimes. Take advantage of a hungry teen and have a meal together on a regular basis—no screens allowed (that means parents too)! Reserve this time not to argue, but to discuss their day and your day. Allow them to be opinionated and encourage them to share their thoughts on light subjects like movies and heavier topics around money, politics, the economy.
- Enjoy who they are today. As they develop their personality and sense of self, help them flourish by appreciating who they are today and letting go of who they were as toddlers or middle schoolers. They are influenced by their friends, teachers and their experiences, so get to know the nuances that reveal the adult they are becoming while helping to steer them along a positive path.
- Encourage independence. Teens are far from their needy toddler selves, but have a long way to go before they are ready to take care of themselves. Help them be successful living on their own by making sure they know how to do laundry, make their lunch, clean a toilet, buy groceries, and spend and save their money.
- Understand that they are supposed to make mistakes. Often parents try to prevent their teens from making mistakes. We often learn best from the mistakes and failures we’ve made in our lives.
- Take care of YOU. After spending so many years taking care of your kids’ needs, take time now to think about how you are making time to invest in your relationships, your work, your free time, yourself. Now’s the time to set personal goals you may have neglected while attending school concerts and sporting events.
A friend once passed on the wisdom that children are mere visitors in your home. We enjoy (or endure, depending on the day) their 18-year stay before they leave the proverbial nest. My husband and I will miss our teens’ presence in our home. We’ll miss their humor and their habits and our conversations around the kitchen table.
However, helping them grow into responsible and well-adjusted adults has been the goal all along. As I often say to my girlfriends, when our teens venture out of our house on their own journey, let’s make sure we are thinking about our own adventures ahead.