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As my daughter enters the middle of her eighth year, she is changing and growing rapidly.

She vacillates between the feelings and needs of a child, and the desires of independence of a young teen.

Eight years old is an age of rapid maturation for many children. She picks up on the nuances of relationships. She hears the news and is afraid sometimes. She is learning her own boundaries and setting limits, but still returning to the safety of family.

Here are 5 life lessons for my eight year old.

Dear daughter,

1. You are your own person, separate from me.

It warms my heart when you imitate me and say you want to be just like me when you grow up. But as you’re learning, I am far from perfect. Your life is your very own. I want to watch as you bloom and grow into your own being. You ask me constantly what you should do and get frustrated when I guide you back to what your thoughts and feelings are. As much as it pains me to say it, I will not always be around. You will gain independence and confidence. Have faith in yourself.

2. I will be there for you when you succeed and when you fail.

Yes, I will share in the highs of your life as you do wonderful things. I will also be there when things don’t work out, when your heart is broken, when your soul feels crushed. You can yell at me, curse me, and tell me you hate me. I will still be here for you, because you are my child. I may not like what you are doing sometimes, but I will always like (and love) you. Nothing in the universe will change this.

3. Reaching out for help, support, or love is never wrong.

I’m a therapist, so you’ve grown up seeing me helping others through rough times. I hope you’ve also noticed the times when I’ve reached out for support from friends and family.We do not live life alone.  If someone is hurting your feelings or making you sad, please tell me or someone else you trust. If you feel like a teacher is unfair, let me know. I may not fix things, because right now my role is to help you figure out how to work through difficulties. But I will be there to love you and support you. It’s never wrong to ask for help or love. Ever.

4. Life is full of pain, but it’s also full of joy.

So many things in life cause pain; you can’t escape hurting. But always look for the good, for the joy, for the peace. If you search for it, you will find it. As a young parent, the hardest thing for me to learn was that I cannot protect you from the pain in this world. I can promise you that there is happiness amid the heartache. You may not find it right away. It may seem hidden or absent. Just keep looking. It’s there.

5. You are loved.

Oh, how you are loved. Your family and friends love you, as do your pets and teachers and neighbors. You give so much to the world. Open your eyes and see how much is returned to you. You are loved not because of what you do or don’t do, not because of your talents or your endearing smile. You are loved because you are a light in this universe, and that light encompasses all that you are.

As you grow older, our relationship will change, but I will be here with you, helping you the best I can.

I love you to the moon and back,

Mom(my)