Desks empty. Locker doors slammed—and lock combinations forgotten—for the last time. School-issued laptops returned to the front office. Color-coded, structured homeschool schedules loosened up a bit. Ah, yes. Summer is here.

School may be out for your kids, but it’s a perfect time to lean into new ways to support them as they grow, change, and enter into new phases. Because they will change, you know. The days may feel long, but the years are short, my friend. Your kids will not be the same next school year—their needs will be different, their worldviews will change, and the way they see themselves and others will undergo a transformation.

So, instead of getting caught by surprise when your kid morphs into someone completely different, first, know this is completely normal and to be expected. Second, you can equip yourself now with the tools you’ll need to make sure your kid is living in an environment that is safe for them to explore, make mistakes, and test boundaries.

For preschool parents, you can anticipate your kids continuing to push boundaries as they learn how to do things on their own, who they can trust, and if they’re safe. This is a time to reinforce they’re loved—even when you’re annoyed with their behavior—despite their choices and emotional outbursts. Resist the urge to interpret meltdowns as a weak spot in your parenting. It’s your kid’s job to learn what the boundaries are by testing them, and it’s your job to hold those boundaries steady with patience and understanding.

Elementary school parents, you’ll start to notice your kids are using their newfound skills they developed in the earlier phases and combining them with what they know now about how the world works to achieve their goals. It’s during this time between kindergarten and fifth grade that your kids are looking for you to engage their interests, notice them, and reinforce the idea that they are accepted and loved the way they are.

During the middle school years, parents start to really notice a battle of wills—your kid seems to fight you on everything these days, which can be quite frustrating. Just know your kid isn’t the only one—it’s during this phase kids will start to really focus on who they are and where they fit in. It’ll be a struggle for parents, but don’t lose heart: your kid is battling some tough stuff like insecurity and self-consciousness and they need you to affirm them positively. 

Newly-minted and seasoned high school parents alike, listen up: Almost everything you’ll go through in the next four years—and it will be a lot—will have a purpose. Promise. This phase is all about finding community and purpose, so your high schooler will test the waters to see where they fit in and what they believe in, and maybe in some maddening, unconventional ways. Your kid will have the desire to belong somewhere and to be a part of something bigger. The best thing you can do is make sure they have a place to belong right at home, and be a safe place for them to express themselves, even if their ideas differ from your own.

It’s always nice when you get a heads up in parenting, isn’t it? While you will encounter your own, personalized experience, hopefully, you’ll find yourself a bit more prepared for what’s to come. Looking for more resources along the way? Be sure to check out the Parenting Your . . . book series in the Parent Cue store.