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Parenting, of any sort, in any stage, is full of defeat and triumph. Moment by moment, parents move through those phases; hanging on to words of inspiration and encouragement from those who have been there before. No one era of parenthood can single-handedly take the crown as the “most difficult”, but the early toddler and elementary school years can be particularly transient. Whether foster or adoptive, biological or step – parents can hold on to some of these fun and enlightening observations. 

The early years are full of opportunities for formative growth.

Before the age of six, children are the most adaptive and impressionable that they will ever be. While this can be daunting, it can also be exciting to know that what you invest now makes a huge return later. Aspects of character like kindness, compassion, curiosity, and bravery can be embedded into their mentality by modeling. The positive influence that you show them can literally become who they are as a future adult. That’s empowering!

The early years hold the variable of imagination.

“If you can dream it, you can do it” is more than a phrase to young children. It’s their identity and they believe it completely. Imaginative play is the foundation of future invention and inspiration. Parents can support their little child’s imagination in a way that is much more difficult to access later in childhood and into the teenage years. Speak life into their dreams and they, too, will believe they can accomplish goals as big as the sky. That’s fulfilling! 

The early years are for practicing forgiveness. 

Let’s face it, no parent is without flaw in practicing discipline and routine – especially in those first years. Not only are young children learning the art of apologizing and seeking forgiveness, but they are also extending it to the growing and maturing parent as well. They are both the recipient and the giver of forgiveness – often at the same time. This free-flowing mercy concept is most deeply felt in these early years. It’s a period of grace and peace for the child and the parent. That’s character-building! 

The early years are sweet. 

It is in these first few years of life that children will make their first, and sometimes most long-lasting, memories. Every family outing, game night, meal together, and silly moment is forming their idea of what it is to live joyfully. Parents have the burden and blessing of lining every situation, even the difficult ones, with a silver thread of hope and purpose. The bright eyes of young children await the happy expectation that parents can offer during this stage! That’s beautiful! 

So, if you find yourself in the mountains and valleys of parenting a precious young child, remember the impressions that you make are forming their ideas forever. They are ready to forgive you, they are willing to try, they are expecting to learn and this stage is unique for those reasons. Enjoy the journey!