No two people are the same, and chances are, you can see this fact distinctly even between your own children. While they have the same parents, it may seem they have nothing else in common.
With so many differences, it’s hard to know where to start when it comes time to determine a parenting plan. If every child is unique, where can you find guidance?
The good news is, while children’s personalities and likes/dislikes differ, children within certain age groups have similar needs. Here, we’ll describe some of these basic needs and general guidelines for fulfilling them.
Children from Birth to 2 1/2 Years
The over-arching need for children within this age group is trust and consistency.
Children need to learn to trust their world and their caregivers. They need their caregivers to consistently respond to their needs.
A first step, of course, is to be sure children’s caregivers (whether it’s a parent, family member, or a childcare provider) are always there for them. It’s important not only to be there consistently but also to be there in a consistent manner. Deal with challenges in a similar manner, feed them in a similar manner, put them to sleep in a similar manner, etc.
Keep a consistent schedule, as well, with the same feeding and sleeping times regardless of where a child is. Be sure children always have something familiar surrounding them (blankets, toys, etc.)
Finally, this age range is when a lot of decisions about your child’s upbringing are made. Be sure both parents clearly agree on how children will be raised to avoid any conflict in their presence.
Children from 2 1/2 to 5 Years
As with younger children, children in this age group require consistent schedules and familiar surroundings.
But, in this age group, children are also becoming more independent. They need chances to learn and explore, and they need to be able to express their feelings.
Children are aware of an established schedule, so changes to it will be more difficult. Gradually introduce change into their lives.
Children are also more able to understand your attitudes and actions at this age, so even more than with younger children, it’s essential to maintain a positive or at least neutral attitude toward the other parent.
Children from 5 to 12 Years
Children’s independence continues to grow in this age group.
Consistency is still important, especially concerning their school and activities, such as sports, lessons, etc. Be sure they are able to maintain the same activities regardless of the parent they’re spending time with.
A major need with children in this age group is clear communication – communication between parents and between parents and their school.
Another important need during this stage is proper role models. Role models at this age include parents, so maintain respectful relationships. Be sure children have consistent opportunities to spend time with their parent of the same gender.
Children from 12 to 18 Years
As children become the most independent in this age group, it will become more difficult to maintain regular contact and schedules when it comes to time with both parents.
Along with this independence also comes more thoughts and questions. Allow children to question decisions, beliefs, and even your break up.
Consistency in how you’ll handle questions from your children and what rules you’ll have for them is important now. Be sure children know rules are consistent between both parents, so they don’t try to pit one parent against the other.
While there are different needs for children of different ages, many of these needs can be addressed with clear communication and consistency. Be sure to think through your parenting rules and plan carefully, and you’ll be on your way to a much easier transition for your children.