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MIDDLE CHILDHOOD: Child Development/Mental Health

SECTIONS: Be a Role Model—Children Learn by Watching Parents ~ Promoting Responsibility and Independence ~ Establishing Traditions ~ Changing Bodies


Be a Role Model—Children Learn by Watching Parents

  • girl being kissed by her mom and dadRecognize that children today face many issues and choices that may be very different from when you were young.
  • Children watch and absorb your values, beliefs, and attitudes.
  • Listen to and respect your child and other family members, even when you don't agree. Admit mistakes and apologize when you've been wrong.
  • The goal of discipline is to teach the difference between right and wrong, not to punish. Do not hit, shake, or spank your child or permit others to do so. Instead, talk with your child about what's expected and what will happen if family rules are broken. Make sure consequences are reasonable and then follow through.
  • Help children learn to control their feelings and behavior. This can be hard, so praise efforts at self-control. Model positive ways to deal with disappointment or anger. Talk about times you've felt upset and ways to handle your feelings in healthy ways. Encourage compromise when possible.
  • Show affection and pride in your child's special strengths, abilities, and efforts.
  • Praise him both privately and when others are around.


Promoting Responsibility and Independence

  • Encourage your child's abilities, independence, and responsibility. Try not to do things for her, but do help as necessary.
  • Assign chores to all children, including those with special needs—and expect them to be done. Give your child responsibility for his belongings and for household or yard tasks that fit his ability.
  • Provide personal space at home for your child, even if space is limited.
  • Supervise peer activities. Help your child's friends feel welcome in your home. When you can, get to know their families.
  • Anticipate some normal early teen behaviors: friends becoming more important in your child's life, changes in the way he communicates, sudden challenges to parental rules and authority, conflicts over issues of independence, refusal to participate in some family activities, moodiness, and a new desire to take risks.


Establishing Traditions

  • Talk with your partner about cultural or family rituals or routines your family observed when you were growing up, including religious observances or customs. Decide together which traditions or customs you want to include in your family life.


Changing Bodies

  • Before it seems necessary, prepare your child for the changes of puberty (body odor, acne or pimples, menstruation for girls, wet dreams for boys, etc.).
  • Encourage your child to ask questions. Provide answers appropriate to your child's understanding. Discuss these issues with all of your children, including children with special needs, even if sexual activity seems unlikely. If your child receives family life education at school or in the community, discuss the information. Talk to your health care provider for advice, help, and resources.
  • TV and other media often contain sexually explicit material, which can be confusing to children. Try to avoid these programs, but if your children do see them, use these as opportunities to discuss your beliefs and values.
  • Discuss unacceptable behaviors and the importance of delaying sexual behavior.
  • Teach your child that it is never okay for an adult to tell a child to keep secrets from parents or to ask a child to touch or help with private parts (those usually covered by a bathing suit).