My eight-year-old informed me yesterday that I am no longer allowed to call him “bear” in public. Or kiss him good-bye. Or refer to myself as “mommy” in conversations with him. A few minutes later, he looks at me out of the corner of his eye and asks, “Mom, are you a little sad that I’m growing up so fast?” He’s entirely satisfied with my quick affirmative.
Later on that evening at bedtime, he only wants cuddles and kisses. He wants me to bring him some water. He asks for an extra hug before he goes to sleep. He wonders if I have any lotion for his sunburn.
This is so normal, this dance back and forth from independence to neediness. Major individuation and separation from the family happens in fits and starts for every child. You see it in toddler-hood, around the age of eight, again at fifteen and, often, again in the twenties. As a parent, these can be gut-wrenching, yet freeing, times. As our children perform this dance it’s up to us parents to sit back and let them lead.
Eight years old is an amazing age and parenting these creatures is a bitter-sweet joy. Mine son is still my fun-loving boy, sensitive and sweet, but with a twinkle of mischief in his eyes. But at times, I feel like I’m parenting a hormonal teen: moody and silent at times, not as communicative as usual, more aware of the ramifications of behavior and clothes and (sigh) girls.
As a parent, the most important thing we can do at this time is to be a constant source of love, keeping a sense of humor (but without teasing or treading on tender feelings). There are three other aspects you must keep in mind at this important time in your child’s life:
And lastly, make sure she is in touch with her feelings and knows how to process through them. Does she know to check in with her body to see how she is feeling? (Emotions will always register with some part of the body. ) Does she know that she is in charge of her choices about what she does with her feelings? Does she know that she is empowered to change her circumstances and her thinking? Make sure your child is in touch and in control of her heart and mind.
This is an important time in your child’s life. I’ve given you a lot to work with and think about. Trust yourself and trust the process. But most of all, be sure to empower your child to make good choices as he flies from the nest and always offer him your unconditional love.
Straight talk from the mom who’s been where you are and knows how to help your family: Shelly Walker is the mother of two beautiful children and the author of Awakened Power and the upcoming book Parenting Keys. Shelly is passionate about children and believes that every child deserves healthy, happy parents. Her website, http://www.parentingkeys.com , has great information and free tools to help parents raise successful, empowered children.