Fostering growth and parenting elementary age (6-12 Years)

Observing children as they engage in new activities, cheering them on during athletic events, and celebrating their achievements at recitals represent significant highlights for most parents. Yet, triumph often coexists with frustration, involving the acceptance of weaknesses while embracing and building upon strengths. Well-prepared parents can serve as excellent coaches for their children across various pursuits.

While toddlers and preschoolers necessitate continuous supervision, school-age children gradually develop readiness for increased independence. However, the acquisition of good decision-making skills and self-discipline can pose challenges for many. Parents play a crucial role in instilling a moral code that their child internalizes over time. As children grapple with these vital tasks, parents must offer praise and encouragement, while also allowing them to occasionally face the natural consequences of their actions or provide logical consequences to facilitate learning from mistakes.

Over the next few years, your objective is to cultivate a strong relationship with your child, serving as a counterbalance to peer culture and establishing a robust foundation for navigating the teenage years. What does connected parenting resemble during this stage?

Maintain Connection:

As your nine-year-old becomes increasingly self-sufficient and peer-oriented, it’s easy to let weekends slip by without much interaction. Resist the urge to fill every moment with playdates and prioritize spending quality downtime just hanging out with your child. Embrace the opportunity to lay the groundwork for a strong relationship that will prove invaluable during the teenage years.

Cultivate Family Rituals:

Establishing family rituals that promote connection is crucial. Whether it’s regular family meetings, Sunday morning brunches, Saturday lunch dates with Dad before weekly grocery shopping, or annual traditions like apple picking in September or creating Halloween costumes together, find what works for your family. Transform these connection opportunities into routines that everyone anticipates and looks forward to, fostering a sense of unity and shared experiences.

Adapt to Your Child’s Independence:

Acknowledge that independence unfolds at varying rates for different children. Following periods of independence, such as sleepovers, your child may revert to seeking extra attention and care. Allow for moments when their “baby self” emerges, and don’t insist on constant maturity. Recognizing and accommodating these transitions contribute to a balanced approach to your child’s growing independence.

Foster Problem-Solving and Negotiation Skills:

While negotiating with children can be demanding, it is essential for their development. Encourage problem-solving and negotiation rather than fostering a dynamic where children merely follow orders. Building these skills empowers your child to think for themselves, fostering a sense of responsibility for their actions. It involves saying “no” when needed, establishing discussion times for objections, and engaging in win-win parenting by finding solutions that meet everyone’s needs.

Promote Healthy Eating Habits:

Use this stage to instill the habit of internalizing food monitoring. Teach your child to assess whether they’ve consumed enough protein, calcium, and the recommended servings of fruits and vegetables. Be a positive example by reading labels, choosing healthy options, and avoiding discussions about dieting, which can set up unhealthy patterns. Incorporate nutritious snacks like carrot sticks, apples with cheese, or yogurt with banana. By establishing healthy food habits now, you contribute to a foundation for a lifetime of positive nutrition.

Avoid Over-Scheduling:

Resist the temptation to fill every moment with structured activities. Allow for unstructured, leisurely days that provide opportunities for creativity and bonding. These “Slow family living” days, where kids can engage in imaginative activities without electronic devices, are essential for their well-rounded development. Creating space for such days in a packed schedule is crucial for a child’s overall well-being.

Limit Electronics:

Encourage the habit of reading by limiting electronic device use. While computers may be necessary for homework, excessive use can lead to addiction. Unrestricted computer use is comparable to prolonged TV watching and can hinder various aspects of your child’s development. Strive for a balance that fosters diverse interests such as participating in the school play, engaging in creative projects, reading literature, dancing, and contributing to community service.

Regarding cell phones, assess the necessity based on your child’s situation. If a trusted adult is always present, there might be limited need for a cell phone. Delaying its introduction until there’s a clear need helps prevent unnecessary exposure to situations that a child may not yet have the cognitive development to handle.

Ensure Peers Value Academics:

As children reach fourth grade, their attitudes toward schoolwork are significantly influenced by their peers. The effort they put into academics and their overall performance are often aligned with the values of their immediate peer group. It’s crucial to place your child in an environment where peers prioritize learning. Consider the impact of the peer group on your child’s academic outlook, and create opportunities for academic-focused social interactions.

Monitor Peer Relations:

Recognize the growing significance of your child’s relationships with peers, as they significantly shape their future. Pay attention to how your child is perceived by peers and ensure they have ample opportunities to navigate social dynamics. Address any challenges they face, such as rejection or stereotyping, to prevent the development of limiting self-perceptions. While maintaining your family values, be attuned to situations where your child feels different due to peer influence and make adjustments as necessary to foster a sense of belonging.

Initiate Family Meetings:

Continue or establish regular family meetings, offering a designated time for open discussions on various topics, including achievements, concerns, sibling issues, and schedules. Family meetings foster a sense of care and importance for each member’s opinions. Establish ground rules, allowing everyone a chance to speak without interruption, utilizing tools like a “Talking Stick” if needed. Encourage positive and constructive feedback. To engage reluctant participants, consider combining the meeting with incentives such as pizza or assigning essential roles like recording secretary or rule enforcer. Transform family meetings into a positive and anticipated part of your family routine.

Emphasize Values:

Actively focus on your family’s values by initiating conversations about them. Values are often absorbed indirectly, and this stage provides an opportunity to consciously articulate and reinforce the values you want your child to embrace. Regularly integrate discussions about these values into daily life, ensuring that your child understands and lives by them. For guidance on raising a child with strong values, seek additional resources.

Move Beyond Discipline:

Evaluate your discipline methods to ensure they aren’t inadvertently fueling a contrary attitude in your child. While it’s essential for your child to learn accountability for their actions, the primary goal is to cultivate an intrinsic motivation to do what is right. Prioritize connection over control, emphasizing a close parent-child relationship, clear boundaries, and empathy as effective discipline strategies. Building a foundation of understanding and emotional connection will contribute to your child’s development as a responsible and considerate individual.