It’s important to know the stages your children will grow through and how you can be there to help them and to encourage them through each of these stages. It’s also important to examine the stages you went through growing up. This will help to give insight into who you are today. They do not happen at exactly the same time for everyone, but you will be able to get a rough idea as to when each stage begins and how long it will last. The three stages we need to discuss are the:
- Beginning years
- Searching years
- Real World years.
Like most things in this program, it is not as hard as the “experts” would make you think.
The Beginning Years
These years are experimental in nature. The acquisition and development of life skills begins long before the ability to understand the abstract nature of these skills sets in. Your children need to feel a sense of belonging, positive experiences, a shared identity, and positive reinforcement. Make these lessons consistent and positive. Teach them, by example, about success and the skills necessary to succeed. Read motivational literature. Teach them a can-do attitude. Listen to positive, uplifting and motivational music. Begin to develop positive habits; these habits can be anything from brushing teeth to planning out your day and sticking to a schedule. Also, develop good behaviors such as saying please and thank you. Teach them to pick up after themselves and to hold the door open for other people. Teach them to develop strong, positive friendships. Teach them that life is not something to face alone. Life should be an experience that should be shared with people who support them, pray for them and who they support and pray for in return.
The Searching Years
This stage usually begins in the teenage years. Your children begin to develop an exploratory attitude (if you have planted the proper seeds, there is no need to worry). They begin to question the things that they have been taught
and try to develop a sense of independence. They may go through a period of deep personal struggle regarding the direction of their lives. This period can last anywhere from a couple of months to several years, or more. It is a critical time, when many young people become caught up in worldly “success.”
In this stage, many people lose their sense of belonging and seek other groups to fit into. They have not lost the lessons they have been taught; they are just not sure if those lessons are compatible with who they are. Your children need the following:
- They need a secure environment where they can challenge what they have learned, and express alternate views.
- They need to be exposed to experiences that will spur their emotional and intellectual thinking.
- They need to develop adult mentors, outside of their families, to validate the lessons that they have been taught. (teachers, youth leaders, etc.)
- They need positive experiences
- They also need to experience hurt and defeat.
- They need to know that you trust them and will be there to support them, if they need it.
The Real World
The “Real World” is where most people will spend the greatest amount of time so it is very important that the lessons learned in the other two stages of development have relevance for what will be encountered in this stage.
As you were reading the other two stages of development, if you thought to yourself, “wow I have been doing all of these things perfectly throughout my children’s entire lives and I was taught these lessons very thoroughly when I was young,” then you will have no worries when your kids enter this stage. However, if you are like most of us, read on.
The “Real World” is a scary place at first. The things you do in this stage have lasting consequences. Even if someone entering this stage doesn’t realize it at first, they quickly learn that fact.
So, what can you do for someone entering this important stage in their life? There are several things I think are important to help someone in this stage of life:
- Let them make their own mistakes. It is important to make mistakes. In fact, for most people, many valuable lessons are learned by failure and mistakes.
- Let them know that mistakes aren’t permanent. I believe that there are no failures or mistakes that cannot be corrected and you must pass that wisdom on to your children.
- Let them enjoy their own success; it’s theirs, not yours. Even though you may have taught them many valuable lessons throughout their life, do not take credit for their success.
- Let them know that successes aren’t permanent. Just because they were successful last week or even yesterday, they must continue to work on future success.
- Be there for them. Your kids will need your help and guidance far into adulthood. Be there for them. Help them when possible but do not help them in areas you know nothing about. If they need help and you can’t offer assistance, guide them in finding someone who can.
- Only help when asked. Do not help your kids in this stage unless they ask. If you know that they need assistance but aren’t asking you, it may be that there are lessons they must learn on their own before approaching you. Be patient.
Michael at R2W
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