When people think of dramatic changes in children over time, they typically think about the first two or three years of life. Although these years are marked by striking changes, the developmental and social changes that occur between ages 6 and 14 are dramatic, as well. Imagine a six-year-old girl starting first grade—maybe she has braids in her hair and is wearing a cute dress; she looks like a little girl and she is likely to be quite excited about going off to school.
Her parents still exercise great control over her comings and goings; their biggest worries are likely to be about her safety when crossing streets and about her adjustment to elementary school. Now imagine that same girl as a 14-year-old starting the ninth grade: She now looks like a full-grown woman, leading her parents to worry about the negative influences of peers, and the risk that she may come to physical harm during the many hours that she is away from home. Equally dramatic changes occur in the social contexts where youngsters spend time.
A six-year-old boy is likely to be enrolled in a local neighborhood elementary school—perhaps within walking distance from home. By age 14, he will have changed schools at least once, moving into a junior high school or middle school. He may be looking forward to his classes, or he may have already psychologically turned his back on formal schooling. He may have sampled out-of-school activities from Scouts to basketball to handling a paper route. Because the experiences both boys and girls have in school and other activities will shape their development through this pivotal age period.
Each period is marked by basic biological and cognitive changes, as well as changes in the social surroundings where children’s daily lives unfold. Exercising their growing autonomy in school and organized programs, children learn about the world outside the family, match themselves against the expectations of others, compare their performance with that of their peers, and develop customary ways of responding to challenges and learning opportunities. Through these years, they forge a personal identity, a self-concept, and an orientation toward achievement that will play a significant role in shaping their success in school, work, and life.
Although researchers and policymakers have focused on the school as the critical arena in which development occurs and children’s futures are sculpted, out-of-school programs offer alternative environments in which children can learn about themselves and their worlds, and can discover opportunities for carving their own versions of success. Middle Childhood (6-8 years of age) Developmental Milestones Middle childhood brings many changes in a child’s life. By this time, children can dress themselves, catch a ball more easily using only their hands, and tie their shoes. Having independence from family becomes more important now.
Events such as starting school bring children this age into regular contact with the larger world. Friendships become more and more important. Physical, social, and mental skills develop quickly at this time. This is a critical time for children to develop confidence in all areas of life, such as through friends, schoolwork, and sports. Here is some information on how children develop during middle childhood: Emotional/Social Changes Children in this age group might: * Show more independence from parents and family. * Start to think about the future. * Understand more about his or her place in the world.
* Pay more attention to friendships and teamwork. * Want to be liked and accepted by friends. Thinking and Learning (Mental Changes) Children in this age group might: * Show rapid development of mental skills. * Learn better ways to describe experiences and talk about thoughts and feelings. * Have less focus on one’s self and more concern for others. Middle Childhood (9-11 years of age) Developmental Milestones Your child’s growing independence from the family and interest in friends might be obvious by now. Healthy friendships are very important to your child’s development, but peer pressure can become strong during this time.
Children who feel good about themselves are more able to resist negative peer pressure and make better choices for themselves. This is an important time for children to gain a sense of responsibility along with their growing independence. Also, physical changes of puberty might be showing by now, especially for girls. Another big change children need to prepare for during this time is starting middle or junior high school. Here is some information on how children develop during middle childhood: Emotional/Social Changes Children in this age group might:
* Start to form stronger, more complex friendships and peer relationships. It becomes more emotionally important to have friends, especially of the same sex. * Experience more peer pressure. * Become more aware of his or her body as puberty approaches. Body image and eating problems sometimes start around this age. Thinking and Learning (Mental Changes) Children in this age group might: * Face more academic challenges at school. * Become more independent from the family. * Begin to see the point of view of others more clearly. * Have an increased attention span. Young Teens (12-14 years of age).
Developmental Milestones This is a time of many physical, mental, emotional, and social changes. Hormones change as puberty begins. Most boys grow facial and pubic hair and their voices deepen. Most girls grow pubic hair and breasts, and start their period. They might be worried about these changes and how they are looked at by others. This also will be a time when your teen might face peer pressure to use alcohol, tobacco products, and drugs. Other challenges can be eating disorders, depression, and family problems. At this age, teens make more of their own choices about friends, sports, studying, and school.
They become more independent, with their own personality and interests, although parents are still very important. Here is some information on how young teens develop: Emotional/Social Changes Children in this age group might: * Show more concern about body image, looks, and clothes. * Focus on themselves; going back and forth between high expectations and lack of confidence. * Experience more moodiness. * Show more interest in and influence by peer group. * Express less affection toward parents; sometimes might seem rude or short-tempered. * Feel stress from more challenging school work. * Develop eating problems.
Thinking and Learning ( Mental Changes ) Children in this age group might: * Have more ability for complex thought. * Be better able to express feelings through talking. * Develop a stronger sense of right and wrong. Changes in Social Surroundings The cognitive changes just described give children an expanded view of their social world and of themselves, providing the foundation for important social and emotional changes that also begin in these years. Along with their broadened exposure to adults and peers outside the family, children of these ages are typically given more freedom, more responsibilities, and more rights.
This period is therefore marked by tensions between the new autonomy and the increasing expectations children encounter, which can either support or hamper the development of self-confidence. Broadening Social Worlds In the middle-childhood years, children spend less time under the supervision of their parents and come increasingly under the influence of teachers and activity Leaders such as Sunday school teachers, coaches of Little League sports, instructors of dance or ballet, music teachers, camp counselors, scout leaders.
In contrast with the intimacy and familiarity that characterize family relationships, participation in school and formal programs exposes children to different Religious and ethnic groups, as well as diverse personal styles. They see adults acting in various social roles, and they see different adults acting in the same role—as teacher or camp counselor, for example. These experiences give children a chance to compare adults with one another and to observe how authority figures judge the behaviors and personalities of their peers.
Increasingly, children spend time with their peers outside the orbit of parental control. Members of peer groups are responsible for managing their own relationships by controlling group dynamics, providing nurturance to each other, and sometimes establishing hierarchies within the group. As children get older, they also seek to contribute to their best friends’ happiness, and they become sensitive to what matters to other people. There is a beginning of a “we” feeling that goes beyond cooperation; children begin to adjust to the needs of others in pursuit of mutual interests.
At the same time, of course, children are concerned with winning acceptance from their peers, and they must manage conflicts between the behavior expected of them by adults and the social goals of the peer group. Entering formal organizations such as schools and after-school programs represents a shift for children: In the preschool years, their social roles were defined for them at birth (as a daughter or a brother). In middle childhood, their roles in school, programs, and friendship groups reflect their personal qualities and achievements. 1. Developmental Variations: Behaviors within the Range of Expected Behaviors for That Age Group
A) Developmental Variation : (Social Interaction Variation) Because of constitutional and/or psychological factors, children and adolescents will vary in their ability and desire to interact with other people. Less socially Adept or desirous children do not have a problem as long as it does not interfere with their normal development and activities. B) Common Developmental Presentations : Middle Childhood The child may not make friends easily and be less socially adept. The child may prefer solitary play at times. (Shyness) Adolescence The adolescent has limited concern regarding popular dress, interests, and activities.
The adolescent finds it difficult to make friends at times. 2. PROBLEM: SHYNESS Middle Childhood The child is very shy, reticent, shows an increased concern about order and rules, is socially isolated, rarely initiates peer interactions, and prefers solitary activities to peer group activities. Adolescence The adolescent shows difficulty in social situations, has limited friendships, is socially isolated, may be a ”loner,” prefers solitary activities to peer group activities, is reticent, has eccentric hobbies and interests, and has limited concern regarding popular styles of dress, behavior, or role models.
Background Most people have felt shy at some time or in some situation. As many as 25% of high school and college students report having been shy most of their lives (Schwartz & Johnson, 1985). Excessive shyness, however, reduces both the amount and quality of social interactions a child has with others and results in lowered peer acceptance and fewer opportunities to acquire social skills. It is not clear why some children are bashful and withdrawing whereas others tend to be more outgoing. Several factors may be involved, including genetics, temperament, anxiety, and lack of social skills. Development
Some degree of shyness in children is to be expected and is part of the child’s normal development (Berk, 1989). A fairly high percentage of preschoolers are described as bashful and avoiding contact with others (Schwartz & Johnson, 1985). Between 30% and 50% of school-age children report feeling shy (Peterson, 1987). When shyness is experienced by the child in many or most situations over an extended period of time, interventions to help the child interact more appropriately are called for. Chronic and severe shyness can have a negative impact on social, emotional, and academic development.
Shy children often have poor self-concept, feelings of failure, and make negative self-statements. The anxiety that accompanies shyness impairs memory and concentration and may keep children from asking for needed help in school. What Can I Do as a Parent? It will be important for your child to learn ways to reduce his or her anxiety in social situations. If the child does not possess the social skills needed to interact with others, it may be necessary to teach social skills directly. The child also needs to learn to feel better about himself or herself as a person.
There are many ways to accomplish these goals. Make sure your child knows that they are loved and valued regardless of their behavior or performance. Talk with your child. about their experiences and help them to evaluate those experiences in nonjudgmental ways that allow them to feel good about themselves. Many times children judge themselves much more harshly than we realize and blame themselves for situations and events they cannot control. As a parent, you can give your child more independence and opportunities to demonstrate responsibility.
Successful handling of independence and responsibility will help to foster an improved self-image. A child’s image of himself or herself is built on a foundation of many small experiences. The more of those that demonstrate to the child that they possess the capability to succeed, the better the resulting self-image will be. Parents can seek out and provide activities that will allow the child to experience success in social environments. Structured group activities or small groups of one or two other children may facilitate success for the shy child.
Parents can discuss, rehearse, and role-play activities with children such as introducing oneself, asking a peer to play, or joining a group of children who are playing a game. If the child is involved in a social-skills training program, parents can reinforce targeted social skills and provide opportunities for rehearsal of skills. If your child is severely shy and inhibited in most situations, the best course of action may include seeking professional help, either through the school, local mental health agency, or your family physician.
Severe shyness affects many aspects of the child’s life and should not be left unaddressed. What Can I Do as a Teacher? Shy children may be easily overlooked in a busy classroom because they do not present classroom management problems and usually comply with instructions. Teachers need to be sensitive to the needs of shy children and facilitate their interaction with others and their participation in the class. Because shy children are often characterized by anxiety, it is best to avoid drawing attention to them or putting them in situations that will require that they be the center of attention.
Structured interactions and small group activities may best facilitate participation by shy students. When children are to work on projects in small groups, the teacher should form the groups rather than allowing students to group themselves. Teachers can take this opportunity to pair shy youngsters with socially competent students who will serve as models for them. Teachers need to avoid reinforcing shy behavior, to be sensitive to the needs of shy children but to refrain from giving the shy child special attention or privileges.
When shy children interact appropriately that is the behavior that should be reinforced. There is a natural tendency to either ignore or be overly protective of shy children, but neither of these responses benefits the child. Shy children should be encouraged to interact, provided with opportunities to interact in small, structured settings, and reinforced for interacting. Direct social-skills training and contingency management procedures have been found to produce positive results and may be beneficial for the entire class.