Raising Kids is Like Doing a 1,000-Piece Jigsaw Puzzle by Fern Weis

The puzzle starts out in 1,000 tiny pieces, and all you have is a small picture to help you navigate the confusion. Take a look at the puzzle I finished, and the new one just started.

Having kids is like doing the jigsaw puzzle. You have a picture in your mind of what their life and yours will look like (the picture on the box). The thing is, no matter all the advice and warnings, you have no idea how challenging it will be to help them be safe, healthy, and prepared to leave the nest (imagine all the variations in colors and shapes, the reflections, the pieces that should fit, but don’t).

have a system of sorts for doing jigsaw puzzles. First I pull all the outside pieces and create the frame for the picture. Then come sections with words, unusual colors and patterns. Everything that is clearly identifiable is done. Then comes the hard part – filling in the other 60% or more of what feel like odds and ends. It’s no wonder that the French and Spanish words for ‘jigsaw puzzle’ translate to ‘head-breaker’.

Did I have even that tiny bit of a plan for parenting? In the beginning it wasn’t much beyond holding that baby in my arms and eventually sleeping through the night. Later on it felt as if we did a lot on the fly. We read a lot of books, listened to the ‘experts’. The fact is there is no substitute for the real thing – raising them in real life, real time.

Do you have a plan? Most parents don’t. Yes, there are developmental benchmarks, rites of passage, measurements to gauge certain kinds of progress. Then the push to prepare for college and the world beyond, which begins earlier than ever, earlier than is healthy.

As they get older, you and your kids need that ‘frame’ more than ever. That puzzle border, consisting of perfectly linked pieces, holds it all together, and allows the other pieces to connect and become a complete picture. Ideally, your frame is a guiding set of core values by which you hope your children will live. Without them, there is nothing that can contain and manage the messiness that describes all growing children and families. You also need a good dose of patience and flexibility, and a sense of humor.

Truth, a positive attitude, courage, generosity, integrity – these are the foundation of a framework for excellence. When these are in place, all the pieces come together. And what a beautiful picture it is.

~Fern Weis, Certified Coach and Middle School Teacher, helps parents break down the walls their teens put up, so they can have a great relationship and better prepare their kids for success in college and beyond. Learn how Fern can help you with your parenting concerns through coaching, classes and workshops at Your Family Matters.


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