The fresh newness of spring is all around us. The bulbs push through the muddy earth; the trees begin to show the green of new leaves. All growth happens in exactly the right time. Such is true of us and our children. We cannot push them to grow faster, as you cannot force a bulb to bloom sooner.
Just as children go through developmental stages, so do parents. This is an important component of understanding parenting. “Parental growth, in particular, is an interactive process with the development of the child influencing the development of the parent” Ellen Galinsky (The Six Stages of Parenthood). By becoming aware of where you are in your development, you may be able to make connections between your growth and your child’s. Sometimes beautiful parallels become apparent as both generations go through similar developmental stages at the same time. Parents with more than one child can be in more than one stage at the same time.
Frederic Hudson developed The Renewal Cycle: Life Chapters and Life Transitions to describe how adults respond to changes in their lives. In his book The Adult Years He describes Life Chapters as “an era of relative stability, predictability and challenge” and Life Transitions as “an era of instability shedding, and new discovery”. As adults transition from one chapter to the next, they experience four phases of transition (similar to the 4 seasons). You can be going through more than one transition at a time and can be experiencing more than one phase at a time.
Phase 1: Go For It. In this phase, a dream is defined. You feel positive, energized and empowered to achieve the dream. You feel on course and as this phase goes on, will plateau, content to just be in this place you worked hard to achieve. I compare this to summer.
Phase 2: The Doldrums. This phase is a time to evaluate what qualities to hold on to and which to let go of from the Go For It phase and the chapter before the change. You may feel negative or out of sync while sorting through what to keep and what to let go of. During this time, you may feel like you are managing your Life Chapter, but begin feeling distanced from it, and then mired down in it. You may work to repair or upgrade the Life Chapter until eventually there is nothing else that can be done to improve it and it becomes permanently stale. This phase is comparable to autumn.
Phase 3: Cocooning. During this phase you may become quiet and introspective, filled with renewed hope and a sense of purpose, settling into the new changes and assimilating them into the person you are now. Cocooning can be compared to the period of dormancy some living systems experience during the winter. This is a time for re-energizing and rejuvenating in preparation for new growth. You may grieve the loss of the previous Life Chapter and may feel lost and disengaged.
Phase 4: Getting Ready. You feel optimistic, expansive, and filled with possibilities about entering a new chapter in life. You may take classes or learn new skills. During this phase you decide what to keep from the previous Life Chapter as you move into the next chapter with hope and enthusiasm. This phase is filled with the feeling of the renewal of spring.
Understanding adult development can be thought provoking and cathartic to a parent who is feeling stressed about parenting. Just as an understanding of child development brings a sense of compassion to the relationship between the parent and the child, connection to one’s own journey through life can help you foster a sense of gentle understanding and kindness for yourself.
“Every human has four endowments – self awareness, conscience, independent will and creative imagination. These give us the ultimate human freedom… The power to choose, to respond, to change.” – Stephen R. Covey