Being a new parent is a 24/7 job both physically and emotionally. Whether we like it or not, our new baby is the center of our universe as we are hers. As our baby grows and becomes more social and independent we start to lose ground in the battle to stay the center of her emotional and physical world. She makes new friends and has her own ideas, passions and preferences that do not always coincide with our values and our “map of the world”.
Our challenge as parents is great: How to continue being the center part in our child’s life?
Unfortunately as our children enter the ‘tween and teen years, they tend to gravitate toward their peers. What we once took for granted – their constant need for us – is now often gone.
Before sharing some ways to keep yourself the center of your child’s life, let me explain what being the center or central part of your child’s life means and why putting in the effort to do so is so crucial.
- Being center doesn’t mean imposing yourself or your values upon your children. Being center has a different interpretation in each and every family. The essence of it is to make sure that you are there for your child whenever she needs you and that she knows that and uses that information for her safety and well being.
- The strong connection or attachment, as Gordon Neufeld calls it, between parents and children since birth is there for a reason. We provide them with all their physical, emotional and analytical needs. These needs vary as the years go by, but they are always there. Sometimes the child masks these needs so well that we forget this important part of our role.
- When you don’t make enough effort or are not aware that you are no longer a central force in your child’s life, the child’s peers will likely fill your void. Ask yourself, “Do you want your child to role model his peers? Do you want her to internalize their values, habits and behaviours or would you like her to follow your example?”
- Once you lose your central role in your child’s life it is very hard to regain it, though it is doable. Being aware of it from the beginning of your parenting journey will setting the stage for your success.
So how do we stay central in our children’s life?
- Being aware of this issue and setting it as a goal is the first step.
- Make it a priority; it is extremely important and is the effort is worthwhile.
- Deepen your knowledge about your child’s developmental stages and then take a moment to visualize your relationship with her at each future developmental stage. Once you have a clear vision of what your relationship should and will look like you can start to make it happen.
- Be prepared to work hard and to face some setbacks and rebellious moments. Having the clear vision of what you desire and aspire to will help you cope with those moments.
- Make an effort to spend lots of time with your children and not only “quality time”. Be there physically and don’t be absent too long as your void will be filled by somebody else.
- Promote open, trustful and transparent communication, so in case you feel away from the center you can still communicate your feelings and concerns to your child in a way that she will respond to positively.
- Be curious about your child’s experiences, her friends, her dreams and so on… Avoid advising her when talking to her and instead just be curious and non judgmental.
- With the social media becoming such a dominant part in our children’s life, staying vigilant and making sure young children are prevented from being part of it older ones have limited access will ease familial ineraction and time together.
- Encourage your child to make friends with other children who place their parents as a central part in their lives.
- Role model to your child how you put them in the center of your life and show it to them by being more involved in their lives.
- Deal with your fears of getting closer to your child, especially if you are already not the central force in her life. It is never too late to recreate or reshape your relationship if and as necessary.
- Be cautious of making assumptions such as: “She is a teenager now and needs her friends and not me”. Ask your child constantly what she needs from you and start a conversation when you communicate your needs and principles as her parent.
- Remember you are the parent! Exercise your right.