THEY GROW UP FAST. PARENTING OLDER KIDS

MOTHER OF ALL LISTS, MOTHERHOOD, THOUGHT-PROVOKING

When you are in the midst of the baby/toddler/pre-schooler bubble it can be hard to think beyond the end of the week, actually who am I kidding, sometimes just making it through to the end of the day feels monumental. But what about the rest of it? I am really grateful for Melony for giving us a glimpse into what the next chapter looks like:

  • Instagram is awash with people posting pictures of their cute little offspring; the adorable photos of newborns all curled up and sleepy, inspirational breastfeeding photos, toddlers finding their feet to walk across the room and the first day of school. And I love these pictures as much as the next person. 

  • But what about when they get that bit older? How do things change? What are the new challenges that parents face?

  • My kids are now 7, 9 and 11 and, in a lot of ways, life is a lot easier. They sleep through the night, they eat normal food, they can take themselves for a bath and they’re at school for a large proportion of the day!

  • But with bigger kids come slightly bigger problems.  This is not to underplay the challenges of having young babies and toddlers in the slightest; that stage is undoubtedly extremely hard. It’s just that the challenges faced by older kids, and what you decide to do to tackle them, can have an impact on the rest of their lives.  No pressure!

  • For me this is an age where kids really want those first tastes of independence but are still very much children. The balance between letting them have some more freedom and keeping them safe is a hard one to manage.

  • When I was eleven, my mum let me shopping in the city centre with my friends on the bus. There is NO WAY I would let my son do this. And I’m not criticising my mum at all as this was accepted back then and there were a lot fewer hazards in town (for one the tram as even I can never work out which direction that’s coming from).

  • So, I sense my hypocrisy in this. I struggle to let him even walk to the local shop alone, although it would be so handy at times.  There are so many cars driving so fast, lots of kids with nothing better to do than annoy other kids and, clearly the rising prevalence of knife crime. And to be honest, he’s just in a world of his own and might not notice what’s going on around him.

  • But I know I need to get over it. He’s starting secondary school in September and will have to walk there by himself, as I have to take my younger two and I haven’t yet mastered the art of being in two places at the same time. And it’s the right thing to do.

  • I want my kids to be able to grow into their independence. But to manage my own stresses (and his safety) I’ve asked someone to walk with him, at least to start with while he’s finding his way and he’s proven to me that he is ready for this next stage.

  • Of course the choice of secondary school is also a major stress at this age. I so remember the agony of waiting to see if we got the primary school place we wanted and the relief (and surprise) when we did. I also remember seeing the faces of parents whose kids didn’t get in. You know ultimately it’s going to be okay whatever school they go to, but it doesn’t make it any less traumatic at the time.

  • Applying for secondary school is no different.  Where I live we also have the 11 plus system, which a lot of kids go for, although there is also a significant number of people who are anti selective education. My son wanted to sit the exam as his friends were and I supported him in this decision. A year of tutoring ensued followed by the big day itself

  • Sadly, against all expectations, he didn’t get in. He was devastated but it hit me harder to be honest as I felt I’d allowed myself to put him through an ordeal. But, he rarely gives it a thought and I’m so proud that he has picked himself up, dusted himself off and got on with it.

  • We recently found out that he got into his first choice of state schools, a school which has a great reputation and which is in easy walking distance. A school that will nurture the sporty and artistic elements of his nature as well as the academic. And he’s really excited about going there. I guess the moral of the story is that everything will work out for the best so don’t worry too much.  

  • Of course a big thing the press leap on with slightly older kids, with no actual help for parents, is video games. This can be a huge source of stress in a lot of households. A friend of mine doesn’t allow any screens during the week.  I don’t go to this extreme but I am wracked with guilt about it (that parental guilt thing never goes!) a massive amount of the time. And the games they choose to play can be pretty controversial.

  • As many people are well aware Fortnite is the game of the moment. I did feel more than a little cornered into letting my son play this game as his two best friends, and a lot of his other friends, were already playing it. I don’t like many aspects of it, but to be fair it’s not all bad and I think the press have maybe over dramatized its influence.

  • Its actually quite a sociable affair, my son will play with friends who are all in their respective houses and they work in teams to play the game, although this seems to involve him wearing a headset which looks like he’s about to land a plane. To be honest, he’s so loud when he’s talking in the game there is absolutely no way he could hide anything from me!

  • I think in terms of looking at what video games they are playing there are a few rules I try to follow:

  • Play the game yourself. Don’t just believe what’s written by some journalist trying to create a story, play it and make your own judgement. Every child is different and what is right for one child may not be right for another. You know your kids the best.

  • Many parents talk about the killing aspect of Fortnite (don’t get me wrong I do not like this) but are happy for their kids to let their kids play Zelda, Minecraft and Terraria, games which also include killing. I am not judging anyone who lets their kids play these games (except Grand Theft Auto maybe, there’s no excuse for that one), but it is important to know a game before you can make a judgement about it.

  • Manage screen time. For me this covers all screens, video games, iPads, TVs etc. My lot have an hour a day, which might sound a lot for some and not very much for others. But it works for us. We don’t have any screens with meals and I am always aware of what they are playing or watching as they are nearby.

  • Parental controls. Use these however annoying they are. A friend of mine told me recently that her ten year old daughter had been accessing porn on their iPad while playing with friends. She was totally ashamed and believe me you don’t want the embarrassment of your kids friends parents alerting you to this problem, put those controls on!

  • Another thing that changes as they get older is their friendship groups as well as any influence you have over them. My daughter has had some hard times this year struggling with relationships with friends she’s had since she was tiny. And this doesn’t seem to be anything out of the ordinary.

  • She’s come out of school crying as someone has done or said something to upset her (I’m realistic about her involvement in all this – she’s no angel!). But we seem to be coming through it now and what’s worked for me is plain and simple. Talking.

  • My daughter is absolutely abysmal about talking about anything, which is something she has undoubtedly inherited from me. But I won’t let her get away with it. We made plans for play dates with friends where the relationships were faltering, to meet at the local ice cream shop or just to engage in any way with each other outside school and confront what was going on. It seemed to do the trick and everyone seems happy once more (not least the parents).

  • I have no doubt that the next few years are going to be equally, or in all likelihood significantly more challenging and I can’t bear the thought of them doing GCSEs! But I’d also say that this is a pretty magical age. I often sit on the sofa with the three of them in the evening and simply count my lucky stars – they are pretty ace.

     

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1 Comment

  • Reply Lisa April 23, 2019 at 6:29 pm

    Great article, and so true, as a mum to an 11 year old from my marriage and a nearly 2year old and 11 week old, the challenges of different ages are tough, and the pressure to do the right thing, for me the important thing it to keep communication between parents and their children

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