By Anna Kettle, Crosswalk.com
My little boy Ben will be starting 'big school' in a matter of days, and all I can keep thinking is, 'How did we get here so fast?'
If I'm totally honest, in the weeks leading up to this new school term, there's been moments where I've wanted to scream aloud to anyone who will listen, 'Someone press the pause button, please. We're not ready for this change yet.'
But then, watching him happily playing with friends or excitedly holding his new school kit, I'm reminded that it is time, and my son is absolutely ready. It's only me that's not!
Times of transition and change can be really hard on our hearts as parents, can't they? One minute you're knee-deep in nappies, and the next, you're dropping your not-so-little-anymore person off for their first day at a new school.
And I know I'm not the only one feeling the emotional pinch in this season either because I'm having so many similar conversations with other parents lately: "Where did our babies go?", "When did they get so big?" and "Did we accidentally lose a year or two somewhere along the way?"
Of course, deep down, we all know that watching our children growing up and growing in independence is what being a parent is all about, but there are still moments when letting go feels hard. And it's often in significant moments of transition, such as at the start of a new academic year, when we tend to feel this tension most. So whether you've got a pre-schooler starting school, a middle schooler moving up to high school, or an older child heading to university or college and flying the family nest for the first time this fall – remember that some mixed emotions are to be expected.
Here are eight ideas to help you navigate this season of change and transition in your parenting well.
1. Keep the right perspective.
Try to keep hold of the big picture regarding your parenting. The truth is we don't own our children; they are not our possessions to control or to keep forever. Even though when they're babies, it can sometimes feel this way. But really, our kids are just on long-term loan to us from God, and keeping this perspective in mind helps us remember not to hold onto them too tightly.
Our role as parents is simply to love them hard and invest in them fiercely for the short time they are entrusted into our care before we finally release them out into the world and back to God.
2. Try to stay present.
It's so easy to be constantly looking back or forwards as a parent – either with regrets about what you'd do better if you had your time again, or when parenting seasons are hard, it's just as easy always to be mentally three steps ahead of yourself too, always wishing for that next stage when they would just sleep, or walk, or talk, or drive themselves.
But the single biggest task you have as a parent is to love on and invest in the child in front of you, right here and now. So choose to lay aside distractions and be fully present with them as much as you can - even when it's boring, frustrating, or challenging.
3. Get used to change.
The truth is that although change can sometimes be hard on our hearts as parents, it's an un-negotiable part of the deal. In fact, continual change is the only constant to be found in raising children!
From every first baby milestone recorded to every family memory made, raising children is just one long exercise in witnessing their growth and change. So always try to remain flexible, be ready to pivot, and stay open-handed and open-hearted to change. Don't pine for the past, but always look for the goodness ahead – there's so much in every stage.
4. Invest in prayer.
Pray lots for your child; do it daily if you can. As parents, we tend to invest so much time into our child's present and future needs by providing things like food, clothing, education, and discipline when they are young. But how much do we invest in their future through prayer?
Prayer is the only means we have of investing in them eternally, and it's also the primary parenting tool that we continue to have at our disposal even as they grow up and leave our home, too - so let's not neglect this important and holy parenting work.
5. Seek wisdom.
Sometimes we find changes hard because it's uncomfortable to face the unknown. How do you handle all those little conflicts that arise, as well as the big challenges that emerge in each new season and stage of life without feeling overwhelmed?
Rest in the knowledge that when you feel out of your depth, you don't need to figure it all out alone! Bring God right into those crazy moments and ask Him for guidance. He promises to give His wisdom to all who ask for it – and don't we need it as parents?
6. Give yourself grace.
Even though it's a normal part of parenting, it can be hard adapting to new changes in your family dynamics or home - particularly when it means your child stepping into greater independence.
If you're finding the emotional 'push and pull' with a tween or teen hard to navigate, try to be kind to yourself. Be prepared to apply lots of extra grace – both for yourself and your child, as you both get used to navigating the latest' new thing' together.
7. Talk it out.
Change happening in parenting is a given, but processing it well is a choice. It can be all too easy to avoid hard conversations, or to bury difficult feelings, especially when you're busy - and what parent isn't?
But try to foster open and honest communication in your home – whenever some change is in the air, try to talk about it with your spouse and your kids. Ask them how they feel, and tell them how you feel about it too. It can help build mutual understanding and reduce anxiety or stress on all sides.
8. Trust God.
Finally, remember that you can trust God with your kids. Consider the biblical principle of sowing and reaping. In each season of transition and change, try to trust that all you have sown into your child up until this stage will reap a harvest in the next one.
You have loved them, prayed for them, trained them, and poured your life into theirs - so you can trust that they are ready for whatever is next. Have you always got everything perfect? No, but all God asks is that you play your part and trust Him with the rest.
Anna Kettle is a Christian author, blogger, speaker, and an award-winning marketing professional. Her first devotional book, ‘Sand Between Your Toes: Inspirations for a Slower, Simpler, More Soulful Life’ released earlier this year under Tyndale House. She is also a co-founder of SPACE, a UK-based miscarriage & infertility support network for women. Anna is a coffee lover, bookworm, travel enthusiast, music fan, keen foodie, gatherer of people, a miscarriage warrior, and a big believer in the healing power of words. She is married to husband Andy, and mom to their little boy Ben who is 6.
You can find more of her writing at www.annakettle.com or at www.thereisspaceforyouhere.com