Age three. No six. Wait, eight was a tricky enough year. Ah, but I haven’t reached the teenage years yet and everyone says the teenage years are the hardest age to parent. So what age really is the hardest to parent?
As with the idea of "when will parenting get easier?" - there is no definitive answer and it’s one reason why we look at parenting through the lens of stages and phases. There is no year the same in parenting and no child identical, so while we can consider the varying levels of difficulty in parenting, it all depends on your personal situation, your child, the economic and social factors that play into how your lives vary on a weekly or daily basis, and most significantly, your family dynamic.
The Early Years
The sleepless nights, tantrums, crying marathons, and food battles are still quite fresh in my mind so I remain of the personal opinion that the early years of parenthood are the hardest for their unequivocal mental and physical exhaustion. There are few that would battle me on this, except for the parents of teenagers, I’m guessing.
The Middle Years
There are different challenges to tend to in the middle years when kids are learning to balance on bikes, dare to run that little bit further away from you, and no longer need shoes tied. So while there are changes in the levels of difficulties in parenting through the middle years, these primary school years offer gentle independence as cords are loosened.
The Teenage Years
A recent UK survey determined that age fifteen is the hardest to parent. This is a time when independence is biting at our children's feet, desperate to get them running. Providing for that independence while also supporting our kids through the inevitable mistakes they will make is a tricky balance to maintain. They appear to no longer want (but still need) our guidance and who can blame them. This generation is growing up quicker than ever and we are struggling to let go. And so lies the difficulties in parenting teenagers. While they think they know it all, they quite simply don’t, and we are significantly challenged to protect them while also letting the reins go a little; it’s terrifying. Teenagers retaliate, relationships harden, and mistakes are often made - by us and them.
The Adult Years
And then, all of a sudden, children become adults and we are loving, nurturing, and supporting our peers. Adults in their own right, they will make their own mistakes, battle their own fears, and face their own challenges. We will stay as parents, somewhat on the sideline, with less influence over their lives than we had when we were kissing bruises and tickling toes. But parenting never ends and while the adult years can seem less like parenting and more like friendships, our children still need us.