When my husband and I became parents, advice abounded! In facet, it was difficult to find ourselves in conversations that didn’t center around sleep cycles, feedings, cloth diapering or paraben-free sunscreen. With sweeping acts of love and affection, our friends and family affirmed us with wisdom and practical help. We felt so supported in our new role. Perhaps our greatest challenge in those early years was learning how to forge our own way and get comfortable with caring for our children within the context of our own personalities, and gifts. We had to learn to live by faith and be confident in our child-rearing.
The early years were filled with conversations with other parents who had children the same age. We swapped success stories, cheered one another on as milestones were met; we expressed our woes about temper tantrums and even how to parent more than one child as siblings arrived on the scene. As our kids entered school or began their studies at home, our talks shifted to focus on reading levels and math facts, sports and dance classes, tutors and family vacation spots. Those conversations do continue now, but you know what I’ve noticed?
Somewhere along the way we all started sharing less.
The fervor to share all that we had experienced in our new days as parents was replaced by silence as our children grew into their tween and teen years. Perhaps as we grow in parenting, we learn that we never really knew as much as we thought we did, perhaps as children grow and struggle or even voice negative opinions, we don’t feel deserving of sharing much of anything. Perhaps we parents of older kids simply want to honor their privacy and to share our questions or concerns feels like a terrible breach of their trust.
These days, I’m living in the Silent Years of Parenting.
They are the ones where I pour my heart out more than I ever thought possible, where I am infinitely more tired than when my children were babies. They are marked by conversations that test my trust, my theology, my faith and my intelligence. . . daily. And they are the ones that I can share vaguely, at best, because in every instance, my parenting involves another person with deep convictions, opinions, ideals and insight that they entrust to me in confidence every single day. My children want this season of the story of their lives to be guarded and I’m so delighted to protect them. It is a gift, but it can feel lonely to my husband and I at times as we wrestle with how to parent the best we can.
The thing is? These years of parenthood are some of our most desperate. We need wisdom and accountability and community. If you find yourself in the silent years too, here are a few ideas that have helped our family:
1. Stay Rooted
Do all you can not to compromise time spent at the feet of Jesus. Let his Word remind you of your identity, your footing, his faithfulness. Look for ways to incorporate the truth of God’s word into your children’s lives, share verses you are reading with them in cards or post-it notes and talk about what you are reading with them. In your times alone with God, Cast your cares upon him and give him your fears. Let him steady you as you seek how to parent your children well in faith each day.
2. Stay Connected
If you can, fight for time with your spouse to share insights, concerns and ideas about how your children are doing, and how you can remain unified in your approach to each challenge presented. This is a way to not only stay “on the same page” with one another, but also to protect your marriage as you seek to understand one another and encourage each other with grace.
3. Stay Ready
Parenting teenagers in today’s culture comes with all kinds of assumptions and fears. It is likely that your child will experience or have knowledge of things that will likely shock you, anger you, or just surprise you. The depths of their hearts will be exposed as they grow in their own faith and challenge you with difficult questions or walk through seasons of great doubt. Be ready. Be willing to lean in and have long conversations. Be prepared for circumstances that make you uncomfortable. Know with all your heart that you have a God who has gone before you and who leads you still.
4. Stay Local
Pray for and seek out wise counsel in your local church. Try to find other couples with children that are older than yours or of similar ages and ask them if they would be willing to pray together. Cultivate a safe space to share your burdens confidentially, to encourage one another and to speak life into this season as parents. Your youth minister or family pastor might be another person to ask to be on your team. Cultivate relationships where your children are known and can learn to seek counsel for themselves in your community as well. Remember that the ministry of the local church is there for support and that you are not alone.
These years are stretching me, but I do think they are the best yet. Praying for you all in these silent years, friends.