At this stage, your infant is highly dependent. This is the stage that forms the perception your child will have about the world. Is it a safe space? Are people dependable? Can people be trusted?
In his book “The body keeps score” Psychiatrist Bessel van der Kolk, writes that this stage is the most critical stage in the development of a child. He notes that inconsistent attachment with the caregiver at this stage has detrimental effects on both the mind and body that lasts long into adulthood. Bessel having worked with thousands of kids who had adverse early childhood experiences also highlights the link between inadequate parenting at this age and mental health in children that push preteens and young adults into toxic coping mechanisms such as alcohol and drugs.
Your child at this stage requires a consistent attachment to at least one caregiver. Without an adequate, loving attachment your infant will struggle to develop a loving relationship in the future and without a trusting relationship with the main caregiver, they will develop mistrust. They will become apprehensive, withdrawn and suspicious around people. Presence is what your child needs at this age.
Questions you must ask yourself:
· Do you have the capacity to be fully present with your child? If not, is there someone available to take on that role?
· What does being fully present mean to you and do you understand the energy work required to offer that to a child?
· Have you identified the areas where you will need support and have you communicated this with your support system?
· If you have no support system and desire not to seek one, what healthy coping mechanism and grounding spiritual practices are you developing to keep yourself in balance?
These questions are important and should be answered honestly as they give you a glimpse into your own limiting beliefs about parenting and offer you an opportunity to grow in communication and self-care. Remember the point is to grow, else having children doesn’t serve you.
Age 5–12 years
At this age, your child is developing their own identity. They now have increasing physical independence and can now fully act on their curiosity. They are making friends, making their own decision about what activities to partake in, what they want to eat and what clothes they want to wear. But at the same time, they are beginning school education and starting to develop an understanding of authority and following rules.
To your frustration, they stop being cute and come across a little ungrateful.
How you respond to situations at this age is very important. This is the perfect time to heal your inner child because if you don’t, you will project that pain onto your child and cause descent further into frustration.
Questions you must ask yourself:
1. What childhood adversities have I left unaddressed that may affect how I relate to my child?
2. What dreams have I abandoned that I may try to conjure through my child?
3. What unrealistic expectations did my parents have of me that I may also unconsciously project onto my child?
4. What beautiful experiences was I deprived of that I may guilt my child for wanting to have?
5. What curiosities was I shamed for having that I may find myself shaming my child for having?
6. What experiences was I deprived of as a child that I may find myself overcompensating for through my child now?
A certain amount of responsibility and freedom is required here — to learn new skills. They can only achieve this by you allowing and encouraging them to try out ideas and to allow them to use their imagination. Your own unaddressed childhood adversities will get in the way of this and will cause you frustration.
How you nurture yourself in this stage is by healing and releasing your childhood traumas. In every stage, as you welcome the new evolved way of nurturing self, you unlock another new version of yourself that is more fulfilled and able to serve. So keep going.
Age 13–20 years
This is a very difficult stage for your child and will most likely be for you. Your child who is now a teen is going through emotional and physical changes that have them extremely hormonal; developing mood swings that affect their social and emotional life. They begin to develop and explore their personality and self-image. This is a difficult stage for them and if not handled properly by the parent, can lead to a prolonged adolescent stage, which may last long into adulthood and having them struggle to find their true self.
Erikson’s theory states that the individual must discover his own identity and without the freedom to do so may struggle to fit in and socialize. If this development is not made, for example, if adults in the adolescent’s life do not allow them the freedom to express themselves, they may find it difficult to take on responsibilities and develop a sense of right from wrong. Should the parents push them to conform to their views; the individual will experience role confusion.
It is also important to keep in mind that with peer pressure, the pressure of exams and choosing a career can make this a very turbulent time for your teen.
So how do you nurture yourself to best serve your child at this time?
· You need to continue releasing limiting beliefs related to your own childhood and adolescent stage as you did when they were a pre-teen.
· Seek external support for both you and your teen.
· Practice patience.
· Be open to listen and guide without impositions and judgment
Remember that life is a continuation, your teen has both the infant and toddler inside him. Each stage is important and each plays a different role in the development of your child. To fully nurture them to grow in their divinity you have to first nurture yourself through healing.
Please note that though this article seemingly is a guide for mothers, fathers can use it on their parenting journey. The inspiration to focus on mothers comes from the way society is set up with more women still finding themselves in a position of raising children alone. I want to be careful not to create excuses. Therefore by individualizing it my aim is that mothers realize they can do it even in the absence of the child’s father if only they nurture self through healing.
Photographer: Adrian McDonald