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As a mom to three middle aged children (four boys in total ages 4-11), I realize now that this time is even more crucial than the younger years. There’s a belief that when our babies start venturing into the world, our lives settle down. They enter kindergarten, make their first friend, and join the soccer team. We’ve kept them alive thus far so we feel like we can rest now; maybe even breathe for a moment. And in some ways, that’s true. But what came as quite a shock to me when my children entered middle age, is that now we have to actually parent them. We have to help form them into good people who know right from wrong, teach them about respect and kindness, instill in them a solid work ethic, and even teach them how to scramble eggs. All the while, we’re still chasing toddlers around or carrying an infant on our hip.
- What is middle aged childhood?
- Is being a middle aged child the same as going through puberty?
- What, specifically, do middle aged children need from parents at this age?
- Medical advice on helping parents get through the middle aged years?
- What about the mental health of middle aged children?
- Being a parent to three middle aged children
- Embracing the stages of motherhood and guiding middle-aged children
- Tips for parenting middle aged children
When my youngest baby, Sonny, was born, I was simultaneously sending my three older boys off into the world: one to preschool, one to kindergarten, and one to first grade. That very day, I remember having mixed emotions while lying in the hospital bed. I was holding this new little life while Face Timing the rest of my family as they walked into school for the first time. I didn’t know if I was crying because one of my boys was going to kindergarten and I could see the worry in his sweet eyes. Or perhaps I was overcome with hormones and love for our new baby. Or maybe I had just given birth and remembered how long I would be wearing diaper underwear for.
It was an overwhelming feeling of needing to be different versions of a mother all at once.
What I didn’t realize at the time, was the juggle to care for middle-aged children, something we aren’t exactly prepared for. We adapt. Who we are as mothers begins to transform. That’s what mothers do. We feed an infant while reviewing spelling words. We change a diaper while cheering loudly on the sidelines of a baseball game.
The natural shift in my identity as a mother didn’t just happen in one day. It was more like a series of “oh shit I have to teach them that” moments.
And once I realized that I was in a new stage of motherhood, much of what I thought I knew changed. My job became bigger— not in a daunting way, but it forced both my husband and I to examine what we learned as children, how it affected our lives as adults, and what we feel is important for our children to learn in our home.
What is middle aged childhood?
Middle aged is a child between the ages of 6 – 11. As Brioché explains, children need far different things from their parents during this developmental stage when they start to mold their own identities. Children of this age range spend more time away from their family and more time in school and other activities.
Is being a middle aged child the same as going through puberty?
The middle age years once preceded puberty (which typically starts around 11 female/12 male). However, now puberty may be synonymous with middle-aged childhood. Puberty can occur as early as 8/9 years of age.
What, specifically, do middle aged children need from parents at this age?
Middle-aged children are very peer-focused but still very strongly influenced by their families. The social skills learned through peer and family relationships and children’s increasing ability to participate in meaningful interpersonal communication provide a necessary foundation for the challenges of adolescence. Best friends are needed for this age because the skills gained in these relationships may provide the building blocks for healthy adult relationships.
Can you share any specific medical advice on helping parents get through the middle aged years?
Because your child can do most things independently at this age, we must remember they still need our guidance and supervision. Parents need to “watch more closely.” Children of this age want to impress their peers, and they may get into harmful activities. Even if they know fundamentally not to do something, it’s easier for them to get sucked in if everyone is doing it.
What about the mental health of middle aged children?
Dr Brioché reminds parents that it’s equally important to be paying attention to your child’s mood and mental health. You want your child to feel safe and supported in all their environments: home, school, and other communities. Assure them that they can share their concerns with the adults in their life.
Being a parent to three middle aged children:
Once our kids reach these ages, we start to realize that there’s no going back. We don’t focus on what’s coming when we’re busy potty training or sleep training and learning to survive. I will never tell another mother to “enjoy it because it goes so fast” – I remember hearing that when I was dripping with babies and thought “that’s great, I’m sure in 20 years I’ll be grateful for that information, but what the hell do I do right now? I am drowning right now. How about you give me a hand?”
Here’s what I do know— mothers have the powerful privilege of creating the future.
While our identities shift between who our children need us to be and who we are as individuals, we are molding their paths while creating our own. After all, we are not the person we were before becoming a mother. We’re not supposed to be. At the same time, our children are entering the first stage of life in becoming who they are as individuals. It’s as if we’re all on the same path to discovery.
To do this, start asking yourself and your children: What brings you joy? What gives you confidence? What things make you happy?
It took me a while to answer these for myself. But when I did, I knew who I was meant to be in this world, and I became a better mother to my boys. I was able to guide them to find their own answers.
Our relationships with our children are in constant motion. It’s our job to embrace the inevitable change in each stage of motherhood. It is not our job as mothers to run frantically taking care of everyone around us. It is our job to teach our children how to pivot, transform and shift throughout life. We do that by giving ourselves the opportunity to do the same.
What can we do to embrace our stage of motherhood and guide our middle-aged children?
- Be present. Listen to what they say, what they’re learning, who their friends are.
- Be honest with them and communicate. I don’t pretend to have all the answers. I share with them my failures just as often as I do my successes.
- Foster independence. Teach them to make their own lunches, pack their overnight bags and choose their outfits for picture day. Set them up for success by making them a list of what to include.
Dr Régine Brioché adds:
- Remind them that it’s important to have good hygiene, for example teeth brushing for 2 minutes at least twice a day (morning and before bed).
- Encourage physical activity- this is the stage where video games/ sedentary activities become mainstay. Set an example about maintaining a healthy lifestyle which includes daily exercise is key.
Final tips for parenting middle aged children:
Give them tasks to help foster their sense of being a good citizen. Allow them to choose their chores. Consider their housework their contribution to family teamwork. Praise their effort and hard work. Positive reinforcement will boost their self-esteem.
Writer, Rachael Amarante can be reached via IG @Rachael_Amarante.