Your little one is really growing up now. Kids at this age are starting to act very independently, but are not yet able to make wise decisions consistently. They need you to set limits for them. As they develop their sense of competence, they need you to praise their successes and to establish consequences for inappropriate behaviors. They are learning to develop confidence and will attempt more challenging situations as they continue to successfully approach situations, whether they are intellectual, social, or physical in nature.
Encourage activities that will help them in the future, such as reading, actively participating in sports and hobbies, practicing personal hygiene and safety, eating healthy, exercising, and developing interpersonal relationships with both peers and adults. Limit passive activities that are less fulfilling, require no interaction with others, or promote unhealthy habits, such as watching television and eating junk food.
It will be challenging for you to watch your child develop peer relationships that take over the position you once held and that become his or her focus, particularly as best friends emerge. But kids still need you. Your most important task is to be a positive role model for them as they develop their own healthy, safe, and ethical lifestyles. Share time together doing things you both enjoy and keep mealtimes as a conversational family activity whenever possible.
Teach them how to resolve conflicts and manage anger without violence. Remember that kids are now able to use logic and focus on multiple aspects of a problem, so it’s possible to reason with them. As they develop their adult personalities, they need to take more personal responsibility, so assign appropriate chores. You will need to discuss aspects of sexuality soon, especially menstruation for girls. Head to the library, where you will find a wealth of information to make the task more pleasant for you and your child.
- Poison-proof your home, paying special attention to cabinets at child level. In the event your child ingests a potentially harmful substance, keep the container and call the poison control center toll-free at 1.800.222.1222. A representative will tell you what to do.
- Children should always wear helmets when riding their bikes. Bikes need to follow traffic patterns, and riding should be limited to safe areas during daylight hours.
- Children should wear protective equipment when roller blading/skating.
- Teach children to swim.
- Everyone should wear his or her seat belt.
- Keep firearms unloaded and out of children’s reach if you must keep them in the house at all.
- Talk about alcohol, smoking, drugs, and other dangerous behaviors so that children are exposed to them in a realistic way and understand the dangers. Don’t wait for them to learn from their peers.
- Make arrangements for adult supervision when you must be out of the house for any period of time.
- Monitor television programs and movies your children are exposed to, and set time limits for watching television.
- Keep lines of communication open with your children now so that they stay that way as adolescence approaches.