Parenting past the toddler years: what's next?

Your baby has grown into a toddler, and now your toddler is fast approaching the preschooler stage. What can you expect?
Your baby has grown into a toddler, and now your toddler is fast approaching the preschooler stage. What can you expect? Photo: Getty Images

A lot has happened through the baby and toddler years. They’ve been intense, constantly changing, and sometimes exhilarating. Your baby has grown into a toddler, and now your toddler is fast approaching the preschooler stage; your once tiny baby is now walking, talking, becoming more independent and exerting their personality more fully.

Of course, your child still hasn’t mastered all the skills they need, so your love and support, as always, is important. And as their independence and competence grows, it raises new issues for your life as a parent. So when your toddler starts to transition into the preschooler years, what’s next for you as a parent?

Time for another baby?

As our toddlers grow and we’ve passed the very intense baby stage, thoughts of whether to have another child often surface. What is the right age spacing between children? Am I ready yet? How will I manage with two or three or more? Or you may have already made the decision to add to your family and are experiencing pregnancy while running after a toddler.

Second, third and fourth pregnancies can seem much less luxurious than first pregnancies. There is probably no perfect time to add to your family. It’s a personal choice, and sometimes the choice is made for us.

Developmental mantra: I’m ready to add another personality into our family mix, but I’m enjoying this stage, too.

Juggling mania

As our kids become more active or we add more members to our family, life can get more hectic. There are more demands and needs to be met, more activities on the go, and more personalities to please. You can often feel like you’re in permanent motion with never a spare moment to rest.

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Some scheduled down-times, saying ‘no’ when appropriate, and not setting expectations too high can all help to keep things in a better balance. While life at this stage does tend to be busy, you’re the one who has to decide when enough is enough.

Developmental mantra: My family life is only as busy as I allow it to be.

They still really need me

Our children are definitely growing and becoming more independent. They may not need us to wipe their bottoms or spoon dinner into their mouths, but they still need us in so many ways. They need our attention, love and validation, and they need our guidance to learn acceptable behaviour. They need our positive role modelling so they know what’s expected of them. Our kids always need us … even if those needs evolve as they change.

Developmental mantra: I will guide and love my child at every stage.

Does it get easier?

The baby and toddler years are likely the most intense times of our parenting lives, but there are challenges at every stage of raising our kids. As our toddlers grow into preschoolers, and then school-age kids, and then tweens and teens, we need to adapt our parenting style. We need to slowly let go and give them more responsibility. We need to let them experience more of the world but be there for them when they need us. And we need to always love them – even when we don’t like their behaviour.

Developmental mantra: I marvel at how my children are growing and learning as I learn and grow with them.

You’re almost past the most intense of parenting times. There is much to celebrate as your toddler approaches the preschooler years and beyond – everything they have learnt along the way, the way your family has been transformed, and how you have moved from being a person to a fully fledged parent. And there is so much to look forward to as well – new experiences, the school years, and those teenage times! Congratulations ... and good luck.

Jodie Benveniste is a psychologist, parenting author and the founder of Parent Wellbeing. You can find more parenting inspiration at parentwellbeing.com.