Do we ever stop parenting our kids? I believe the answer is yes. I think back to the different stages of their lives and my answer becomes apparent to me.

When they were babies, they relied on me to give them the necessities of life – keep them warm, safe, fed and of course loved. As they began to show signs of independence and their little spirits started to show through, I wanted to encourage that. I enjoyed watching them evolve, find their interests and see their identities form.

All three of my kids were different which meant I needed to apply a unique parenting approach to each of them. I realized that my job as a parent was to guide them to become the best they could be. I shared with them what I thought was important – I taught them life skills such as communicating, presenting themselves in a positive way, coping with problems and challenges, standing up for themselves, having integrity, treating others with respect, never settling for mediocrity and most importantly – believing in themselves. I wanted my kids to feel a sense of self worth.

Then life happened. They experienced divorce, joint custody, illness, death and the usual situations kids find themselves in during their school years with friends and teachers and extra-curricular activities.

The best I could offer them was a reality check on what we were experiencing as a family and help them cope as I tried to cope myself. I never wish negative circumstances on anyone, however, what I learned is that it created a magnificent opportunity for awareness of life and personal growth for all of us.

There came a time when I knew they were ready to spread their wings and fly. As much as I tried to prepare myself emotionally, it’s not easy when your goslings leave the nest. We have had moments where we were upset with each other and I as a parent needed to own my role and contribution to what was between us. I didn’t feel less of a parent or less of a person, in fact, I hope I was teaching them accountability.

Now they are older. They are intelligent, resourceful and capable adults. They have their own lives and interests. They are exposed to other opinions and perspectives which helps them shape their own. As children, they learned only their father’s and mine – they needed to epand their thinking beyond the limits of one family.

As parents, we can’t take our kids’ adult decisions that are different from ours, personally. It’s important to validate them for who they are and what their choices are even if they are not the same as ours. And in many cases, they do end up sharing similar characterstics.

I treat my kids as friends now. I don’t tell them what to do. I listen more. When we talk, I will ask my daughter if she just wants me to listen or if she wants feedback. I don’t force my perspective – she is more than capable of forming her own.

I believe one of the greatest compliments you can give another person is to accept them and validate them for who they are and I do my best to help my kids feel that from me. I am so very proud of all of my kids and how they have chosen to live their lives!