By TEACHER TANYA VELASCO
The start of the new year always makes me realize how time flies so fast. Our children are just growing up way
too fast. I always tell my daughters, Ellie and Julia this line: “A few years ago, you were barely walking, and look at you now!” They would look at me and say, “Mama, are you going to cry happy tears again, because we are getting older?”
Every new year is an opportunity for us to reflect on how we were as parents and, at the same time, how we can move forward in becoming better for our children.
Maybe some of you are, like me, raising preschoolers, maybe your child is now a teenager, or maybe you are adjusting to having an infant for the first time. No matter what parenting stage you are in, I believe that every parent will deal with challenges
specific to every phase.
Evelyn Duvall, a major contributor to the Family Development Theory, explains this further by outlining the eight major stages in the family life cycle: Married couple, childbearing, preschool-aged children, school aged children, teenage children, launching children, middle-aged parents, and aging family members. Every stage has developmental tasks from establishing one’s marriage (the married couple stage), launching youth into adulthood (launching children stage), to adjusting to retirement (aging family members).
Where are you exactly at this 2020?
Parents that I meet during the seminars that I conduct on infant and toddler development would often tell me this: “Teacher Tanya, there’s a lot of information out there. I feel it’s harder to be a parent now.” And I totally agree with them. We contend
with so many worries such as how we can make sure we can get home just in time for dinner (amid the traffic), how we can raise my children in this digital world, which information to filter, knowing if everything’s is enough, and many more questions.
Whenever I feel overwhelmed with parenting, I always go back to these words from Pastor Paul Tripp. In his book, Parenting: 14 Gospel Principles that Can Radically Change your Family, he wrote, “Parenting is not first about what we want for our children or from our children but about what God in grace has planned to do through us in our children. Children are God’s
possession for his purpose.” It’s a reminder to me that parenting is indeed a blessing, and there’s a greater reason as to why God allowed me to be a parent.
One of my favorite child development specialists, Magda Gerber, a pioneer in advocating for respectful care for infants and toddlers, reminded every parent with these words: “Go slowly, and with great patience.” If you can take this to heart, then you will remember not to rush from one stage of the family life cycle to the next one. It is important that you get to savor and enjoy every parenting stage. Here are five reminders that can help you take things slow.
1. BE EMOTIONALLY PRESENT
Have you experienced being here but not really here with your child? How many times do our children catch us being on our phone instead of being with them? I know how it feels to raise a child with a million other things on your head. It’s just so hard to be present when our child is with us. But I believe we can start small and slowly. My husband and I try to put our phones away, so we can really focus on being with our children. If there’s a call that you expect, just inform your children that you’ll expect a call soon. My husband who works full time, allots an hour of play (or even more) when he comes home from the office.
I see how our children enjoy this full attention and interaction with us.
2. LET YOUR CHILD PLAY
Dr. John Medina, the author of Brain Rules for Baby: How to Raise a Smart and Happy Child from Zero to Five, pointed out that there are five brain boosters for every child, and one of these is play. There are so many studies that will tell you how play can help develop a child holistically and how it’s good not just for his emotional development but also for his intellectual capability.
It is through playing that children’s creativity and patience are being developed. Sometimes, I would hear my children tell me,
“Mama, I’m bored!” and my response to that is this, “I know you are bored, so can you find ways not to be bored?” And a few minutes later, they would engage themselves.
3. COMMUNICATE WITH YOUR CHILD
I like what my mentor, Ruth Anne Hammond, an infant and toddler specialist, told me in one of our mentoring sessions. She said, “A gadget has no skill in reading a child’s emotions. What your child needs is a real person who is attuned.” We are raising children in a digital world. As parents, we cannot shield them from this environment, but we can set limits and create an environment that honors good communication.
How can our children learn the right way of communicating if we don’t show them what it means to communicate? Dr. Gary Chapman, in his book, Growing up Social, pointed out that the most ideal place for a child to learn to communicate is in his home. Model to them that communicating means putting your gadget away, having eye contact, and conversing with each other.
4. BUILD ON EXPERIENCES THAT NOURISH YOUR RELATIONSHIP.
I always ask parents during my parenting seminars this question, “Where else can you take your child on a weekend aside from the mall?” I have nothing against going to the mall but my concern is for us parents to really make time for more engaging activities with our children, letting them know that they’re worth our time and attention.
Think about activities that build on experiences and strengthen your relationship with each other. There are a lot of things we can do without having to spend much. Try taking your children outdoors. Studies have shown that children who spend time outdoors sleep, eat, and learn better.
5. BE MINDFUL
I like what our national social scientist and mindful parenting advocate, Dr. Honey Carandang, said, “We need to pay attention to parenting. To become an effective parent you must be mindful, conscious, and aware. It’s called mindful parenting. You must know what you’re doing, and why you’re doing it. Parenting is developmental. You have to grow with the child.
Being mindful also means having a respectful perspective of our children. We need to treat our children with respect—
the way we talk to them, and the way we listen to them. I’ve noticed how it affects me entirely when I do things slowly and when I become more aware of my response toward my children. It’s never easy, but I’ve seen how there’s less stress in our interactions, especially during circumstances when we are in a hurry. Try it!