How To Plan For Your Next Parenting Chapter
How To Plan For Your Next Parenting Chapter
Modern Parenting is all about transitioning from one chapter to the next. As much as you might want to, you just can’t stop change.
There are some common chapters that all parents experience at one point or another:
- The transition of going from parenting babies to toddlers, then toddlers to big kids, then big kids to teenagers, etc.
- The kids are now dating chapter
- The kids are now driving chapter
- The empty nest chapter.
Then there are some transitions or chapters that not all families experience, but can be disruptive to the family:
- Divorce and or re-marriage
- Employment changes (i.e. new jobs, loss of job, going from part time to full time)
- Moving from one home to another (maybe even to a whole new state or country!)
- Illness or death of a loved one.
Family transitions happen whether we like them or not, and the more we can plan for these transitions to happen before they get here, the better off we will be.
I recently had a huge family transition occur – my youngest child went off to college and I became an empty nester. You can read all about that event HERE. I started planning for this new chapter of my life three years before my daughter, Belle, actually went away for college – and I’m so happy that I did.
Because of this planning, I’m feeling like this chapter of my life is just as meaningful as the previous chapter that was spent raising wonderful humans.
I did not go through a period of re-discovering who I was (as is common for new empty nester parents). I put effort into this during my planning stage, so I was all ready to dive head-first into the friendships, interests, and career that I spent time envisioning during my planning stage.
YOU can have better family transitions too with a little planning. This post today is all about how to plan for the next big stage in your life – whether it’s a common transition such as the empty nest stage or the new driver stage; however, planning for the disruptive life transitions is just as important.
Read on to find out how to feel confident in your next stage of parenting.
Identify Where You Are Now and Where You Might Go Next
It’s super important to know exactly where you are now, and where you might go next. For example, if your oldest child is in middle school now, then you know that high school is next. That is your next big transition.
It’s best to always have in mind one to three possible transitions coming up.
Now that you know your next possible transition, what do you want that transition to look like? How do you want to feel during that parenting chapter?
Once during a training I attended, the instructor reminded us that if you don’t know where you’re going, any road will get you there.
Be intentional about where you want to lead your family – and how you want to grow as a parent and as an individual in the next stage; otherwise, might end up on a whole other path.
Let me use my recent transition into empty nesthood as an example. I have two kids who are three years apart in age. My son’s transition into college was the trigger that got me to thinking about my next stage. When I dropped him off at college, it made me think that in three years when my daughter was scheduled to go off to college, I would have a lot of time on my hands.
Here are some of the questions I asked myself:
- What did I need to be happy when I wasn’t consumed with parenting 24/7?
- How did I need to bring meaning into my life?
- Who did I want to be a part of my life, and why?
- What interests did I want to make time for in my next chapter?
These questions allowed me to start having a vision of my next chapter.
Keep In Mind Your Passions, Values, and Beliefs
I’m a broken record about knowing your personal passions, values, and beliefs and aligning all of your parenting and personal decisions with these important guidelines.
Don’t know your personal passions, values, and beliefs? Download the workbook that I created that will help you uncover them now.
Using your passions, values, and beliefs as a guide in making your parenting and personal decisions gives you the confidence you’ll need to tackle that next stage of life.
For example, one of my passions is Modern Parenting. By asking myself the questions mentioned in the previous section and using my passions, values, and beliefs as a guide, I determined that I needed to have a career that I not only enjoyed, but allowed me to work on my Modern Parenting projects.
Another example is that one of my values is connecting with good people. I also knew that I wanted to feel connected to family and peers that made a positive impact in my life. Unfortunately, by working on this exercise, I came to the realization that I had let many of my friendships go over the years because I simply didn’t have the time or energy left over after parenting my kids to maintain good relationships with many of my family and friends.
Over the three years that I planned my empty nest next chapter, this is exactly how I used my passions, values, and beliefs as a guide in determining how I should prioritize my planning.
Design the Big Picture
Research tells us that the hardest part of any project is starting it!
Before you get overwhelmed and give up on your project of planning your next transition or chapter, simply give yourself permission to just design a rough outline of the important things that will need to be accomplished before the next stage gets here.
Don’t get tempted to look at the details yet. Just design the big picture.
So, using my empty nest example, I knew that career, family/friends, and Modern Parenting needed to be prioritized in the planning of my next chapter.
As I considered my empty nest life, I roughly envisioned myself going to a job that paid me enough where I didn’t have to worry about my bills and would also allow me to financially help with my kids’ educations. This job made me feel good about myself because I was helping people as a child psychologist and making a difference in people’s lives. Most importantly, this job would either allow me to work on Modern Parenting full time, or leave me enough time to work on it outside of work. Finally, I also saw myself spending time with family and friends.
Once the overall picture felt right, I moved on to planning the details.
Now Plan The Details
Once you have the big picture nailed down, begin planning the details.
What steps do you need to take to accomplish the goals included in the big picture?
What tasks need to be completed before the start of the next chapter?
Who is involved in your next chapter? How do you need to prepare them? What conversations need to be completed?
Take as much time as you need to plan the details. However, once planning is done, then execute on your plan.
Again, let me give you a glimpse into my planning process for my empty nest stage. As stated above, I wanted to have close connections with positive family and friends in my empty nest chapter. Because I had not kept up with a lot of my family and friends over the past several years, I knew I had some work to do to get this area where I wanted it to be by the time my daughter moved to college.
Slowly and intentionally, I began to make it a priority to re-establish relationships with certain family and friends. Instead of waiting for people to ask me to lunch, I asked them. I texted people encouraging words when I knew they were feeling down or when I knew they had an important event happen. And I gave myself permission (and this was a hard one for me) to balance having a social life with also being a mom.
I can report that by making that effort to reestablish old relationships and encourage new ones over the last year or so, I now have the social life that I envisioned three years ago. I’m so happy that I put in this effort!
When To Start Planning?
You know the old saying about the oak tree, right?
When is the best time to plant an oak tree?
The best time to plant an oak tree is 20 years ago – the second best time to plant an oak tree is TODAY!
The best thing you can do for yourself is to start planning your next transition or stage today.
Thinking of transitioning from a parent who works part time to one that works full time? Start planning now in order to ensure a smooth transition on your kids and to feel confident in yourself.
Will your oldest child begin high school in 2 years? Start thinking about which high school is best for your child. Do they need to be taking certain classes in middle school to apply for a certain track in high school? What extracurriculars will they need?
You can never begin planning too early – but if you fail to plan then you plan to fail (I know! Cliched, right? But still true!!).
You can do this – I believe in you! 🙂
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