If you are raising kids, or have raised kids, you know that there are distinct phases of their lives that present their own joys and challenges.

Infants bring indescribable love as well as sleep deprivation like you’ve never, ever known.

Toddlers are on the go and exploring everything around them. But this can also be when a defiant human emerges.

Preschoolers are fiercely independent and curious-er and curious-er.

Elementary – I call this the sweet spot... they still like you and are self-sufficient enough to make life just a little bit easier.

How about them junior high and high schoolers? Hang on, parents, it’s about to get bumpy - for them and for you.

Emerging adulthood is a whole new ball game and each child and their situation looks a little different. Parents are still vital in their lives as they explore their next steps.

Adult children – who knew we would still do important parenting stuff through this stage, too?

Each of these phases brings the highest highs and desperate lows. No handbook, no way to prepare for the unknown, and no two kids are alike. What worked for one, is a complete fail with the other.

I remember waiting with great anticipation for the next phase, focusing on the difficulties of the current one. I thought, “If I can just make it through night feedings (or diapers, or chasing, rescuing, puberty, peer pressure, dating, you fill in the blank, the next phase is sure to be easier.”

HA!

Why did I ever think that? Each phase came with it’s own NEW set of challenges and struggles.

Luckily I realized early on, if I was always in a rush and looking to the next phase I would miss the beauty of the current phase. So I developed a personal habit of clicking “Kodak moments” in my head. I captured in my mind, if not on camera, the sweet moments that I never wanted to forget – the delight of each of my babies at their respective phase of life.

I created mental memory books of Bryan, Justus, Mackenzie and Seth – as well as the other children that God brought into our lives. Those kids that hung around ours, spent time at our house, and became “our” kids too – in our hearts.

Special events…*click*. Family moments…*click*. Laughter, accomplishments, struggles…*click*, *click*, *click* - our Kodak moments.

And, oh the struggles! What family doesn’t or hasn’t had them? Don’t believe your social media feed. We all present to the world the best of our family. And there’s nothing wrong with that. I, personally, think it’s OK to use social media as a personal parent brag book. But I do not fool myself into thinking that it is the whole picture of ANY family – including mine.

So what did my dear husband and I do to survive the struggles that each phase brought? We hit our knees! (Well, not really – I actually only occasionally pray on my knees J) But, PRAY, we did! And, DO!

I’ve said it before…who can survive marriage, parenthood, or life without God? I pray to the One who knows all, sees all, and still loves us all. Without Him, I would have given up long ago.

Even now, with my children in high school, emerging adulthood, and adulthood – I know that I still have much to survive and much to offer them. I can’t do either of those things very well without God.

So, I pray. I confide in, cry to, seek wisdom and advice from God in Heaven who loves my kids, and the phase they’re in, even more than I do.

The Bible says, “We do not know what to do but we are looking to You for help.” (2 Chronicles 20:12)

Remember, they’re just phases…but they last our entire lifetime. Don’t try to do it alone.

Sylvia Gaston is the director of Children's Ministry at Koinonia Church. Any comments can be sent to: sylvia@kchanford.com.

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