By the time they reach the age of six, most children are well on their way to being independent — both physically and emotionally. From six to 12, your child will develop in so many ways, growing and changing from a child into a near-teen. He or she will need your guidance, advice, and — most importantly — your love and support.
Here’s what developments you can expect during these formative years, and what you can do to help:
- Physical: As your child’s strength and muscle coordination continue to develop, encourage him or her to enjoy physical activity by playing catch, kicking a soccer ball or taking a dance class. There are dozens of ways to get children involved in sports and physical activities at any age. Not only does it keep them off the couch and physically fit, it’s a great way to meet new friends and develop interests. Puberty may still be several years off, but now is the time to discuss physical and sexual development with your child well before he or she experiences it. If you are not comfortable with this topic, ask your physician, an older sibling, or another trusted adult to help.
- Cognitive: Along with learning about language, math, social studies and other typical elementary school subjects, children learn to think more logically and critically, using deductive reasoning, analysis and other more advanced cognitive skills. As a parent, you can help them with homework, encourage them to read on their own for enjoyment, and teach them to do word puzzles, Sudoku and other games that challenge their cognitive development.
- Emotional: These are the years when a child’s self-esteem really begins to take root. Be sure to praise your child for accomplishments, encourage him or her to take reasonable risks, and make it clear in a supportive way when behavior is unacceptable. Children need consistency and clear, set guidelines. You may be afraid of hurting your child’s feelings by criticizing, denying requests or giving negative feedback, but if given constructively and with unconditional love and support, such “negatives” can have a positive effect in the long run.
- Social: Your child will likely make new friends at school and outside activities. Encourage friendships, but be sure to meet new friends (and their parents whenever possible) and keep tabs on your child’s whereabouts. Children are using drugs and alcohol earlier than ever before, so keep a close eye on friends and activities.
Your physician will let you know how often to bring your child in for a physical exam and check-up; most physicians like to see patients in this age group every year. However, call your physician if you have any concerns about your child’s health or behavior, including:
- Significant changes in behavior (eating more or less, sleeping more or less, mood swings, etc.)
- Not meeting growth or development milestones
- Early onset of puberty (before age eight for girls and nine for boys)
- Unusually aggressive or angry behavior
- Showing signs of learning difficulties or attention problems
- Learn parenting skills to help you address the needs of your child from ages six to twelve. For classes and workshops for parents, check out our upcoming classes and events.
- Have your child examined by a pediatrician at least once a year from ages six to 12.
- Find activities and parenting clubs in your area through the Parent Connection.