It’s back to school time and this year my daughter is starting school. Starting school is such a big milestone and a bittersweet time for parents. I’ve definitely felt all of the emotions over the last few weeks. I think the thought that has stayed with me though, is how my parenting and my relationship with my daughter is about to change.
Suddenly it feels like the last five and a half years have gone so quickly. Of course this isn’t the case, some days were VERY long and some stages were really challenging. I think realising that I’m moving into a different stage of parenting now, where my daughter needs me less or in a different way, has been a good time for reflecting on this. The early years are so all consuming because our babies need everything from us. We are responsible for feeding them, changing nappies, dressing them, carrying them around and helping them regulate their emotions. Now my daughter is starting school, she can do a lot of those things herself. In some ways this is a relief, but it is also sad to move away from that stage of feeling so needed. Of course parenting doesn’t stop when she walks through the school gates, but it is changing. Now I have to trust my parenting. I have to trust that I’ve taught her enough about herself and the world that she can navigate it on her own more of the time. My hope is that she will still come to me with her questions, concerns and uncertainties so that we can work through them together.
So reflecting on the last five and a half years, with all its beauty and challenges, I think my advice would be to invest in the future relationship you want to have with your child. Quite often we can feel consumed by the practicalities of parenting, the feeding, changing, bathing etc. But I would invite you all to consider how you might take some time in your busy days to really connect and create that safe base with your child. Being their soft landing place where they know they can come, without judgement, starts in the early years. Accepting our children for who they are and seeing their behaviour as communication of a need that they have, rather than something that needs to be stopped or changed, is so important. That’s not to say that any of this is easy, and none of us are perfect parents. Being the ‘good enough’ parent for your child is what counts. Rupture and repair is a part of every healthy relationship. It is creating and maintaining those core values around how you want to parent which will carry you through more difficult seasons. I have found the Circle of Security program just so useful in this space, to give me the tools to be the parent I want to be.
Watching your child’s independence blossom is the reward for putting in all that beautiful effort throughout infancy and their younger years. Reaching milestones, like starting school, provides time for that reflection and growth as a parent. Always remember, you are the best parent for your child. All they need is you.
Written by Dr Anna Hadgraft