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How Parenting Evolves Through the Ages

Being a parent means being a lifelong learner. As our children grow and develop, so does how we care for them. The new ParentMD video course, “Raising Emotionally Healthy Kids from Birth to 25,” is a way that you can help educate yourself on parenting through the ages. Dr. Katy Hopkins, child and adolescent psychologist, shares how parenting evolves as children age based on their emotional needs and development in this 8-video course.

Your Parenting Guide

As you engage, you’ll learn some of Dr. Hopkins’ theories surrounding child development and provides a guidebook for your parenting journey through stages: birth to age five and ages 5-9, 10-14, 14-18, and 18-25. At each stage, she works to add to your parenting toolbox, walks you through best practices, and helps establish your role as it relates to developmental health at each milestone.

Birth to age 5

Dr. Hopkins introduces the first five years of the child’s life as the most crucial time in its development. Their vast growth and development during this period are incomparable to any other stage in their life. As parents, it’s all we can do to nurture change and development with a close and attuned relationship with them, doing our best to lay a roadmap for healthy progress.

Throughout this section, Dr. Hopkins offers examples of doing these things well and provides psychologically-backed evidence for success. She expresses that as a parent, the most important task during this time is being aware of the child’s emotional state and responding to it effectively. We must recognize, respond to and co-regulate with our children through age five. Our role is to help them regulate through our self-regulation and use routine to structure not only the environment but also their brain. 

Ages 5 – 9

The next section of the course focuses on ages five through nine. By this time, our children are entering school and developing ongoing and meaningful relationships with people outside the home. We see that they have an increased ability to self-regulate and are starting to shift from a self-centered worldview to a more empathetic one. They’re engaging in curiosity and seeking independence, yet still wanting to be a baby. Our little ones are finally developing personal identities.

During this stage, Dr. Hopkins encourages parents to continue emotion coaching – but this time focusing on different perspectives. Look at outside situations and ask: “How do you think that would make you feel?” or internal concerns asking, “How do you think others would feel?” Parents must work to foster skills to help their children learn to calm themselves, reassess, and self-soothe. All the while, we work to increase their coping skills and ensure that we are taking time to give them uninterrupted individual time together where they are directing the conversation and play.

Ages 10 – 14

Children between the ages of 10 and 14 experience many ups and downs, from rapid body and hormonal development to an increased need for independence to noticing the justice and injustices surrounding them. They are discovering their personal passions while at the same time making new meaningful friendships with people who share their interests.

Dr. Hopkins shares that as parents, we must encourage our children to take healthy risks at this stage – allowing them to find themselves in situations in which they are somewhat vulnerable – while still being the strong supporter they can come to. We must engage in uncomfortable conversations with them – from peer pressure to body image to sexuality – because if we do not, someone else will. One of the hardest parts of going through this stage is allowing our children to have their own identity despite its difference from our own.

Ages 14 – 18 

Children between 14 and 18 are experiencing an incredible time of identity development. This is when they define who they are and figure out their values, and because of that, this time is accompanied by boundary testing and rule-breaking. Now, our children are moving away from relationships with us to focus on peer and even romantic relationships. And even worse, they’re beginning to notice and point out our flaws.

This is a difficult time for parents. Dr. Hopkins urges parents to try to understand where their children are in their developmental journey versus their own needs and wants for them. They can help identify and set meaningful goals and look to notice and reduce toxic stresses by modeling those steps in their own life, but this range is mostly about taking a back seat and listening. It’s good to have clear limits and expectations but also provide healthy risk-taking opportunities that might not be comfortable for us. 

Ages 18 – 25 

By the time children reach 18 and beyond, they are experiencing independence for the first time – whether that means moving out, attending college, or working. We begin to cut strings, allowing them to choose where to go and what to do. They start making significant decisions for themselves.

It’s time to step back and enjoy the young adults that our children have become. Dr. Hopkins explains that this doesn’t mean entirely letting go. We still want to ensure they have continued support and foster a place to return to if they need us. But really, our new role is to celebrate wins and not take things for granted. 

Ready for more parenting tips from a child and adolescent psychologist?

Dr. Hopkins has a lot of great tools and advice to share. Check out the “Raising Emotionally Healthy Kids from Birth to 25” video course to listen for yourself.

Finished and ready for more? Try reading “The State of Mental Health and What Families Can Do About It” or listening to Part 1 and Part 2 of our podcast “Raising Mentally Healthy Children into Successful Adults.”

In each resource, Dr. Hopkins shares some interesting nuances regarding parenthood that you won’t want to miss, no matter the age of your child(ren)!

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