You may have mastered managing toddler tantrums and preschooler proclivities, but big-kid behavior is a whole other ball game. Learn what milestones to expect during the school-age years.
By Rebecca Phillips
What defines a big kid?
A big kid is a child between kindergarten and second grade (ages 5 to 8), with big kids being considered school age around ages 5 to 6. These years are filled with new milestones, new interests, new social needs, and new academic developments.
As your child enters the school-age and big-kid years, your focus will likely be less on issues at home (such as sleep or discipline) and more on issues at school, both academically and socially. During these school years, your child will learn to read, develop routines, understand complex directions, and learn to interact with peers one-on-one and as part of a team. Growth and development milestones include losing baby teeth and getting permanent teeth, continued muscle development, better hand-eye coordination, and the ability to sustain physical activity for longer time periods.homework environment for your child by making sure he has a clean, well-lit workspace, all the school supplies his teachers require, and a quiet atmosphere. As your child gets older, homework should be a priority; completing it will help teach discipline, problem solving, and time management skills. Homework also helps your child practice what he learned during the day to be certain he understands concepts. Give your child enough time to do his work, and always turn off the TV, avoid answering phone calls in the same room, and remove other distractions, like computers or video games.
Parents can set their child up for success in school by creating the right environment at home. Make sure your child gets enough sleep at night so he is well rested and able to stay alert throughout the school day. Ensure that he eats a full breakfast and a substantial lunch, so that he?s not distracted by hunger during the school day. Give him a diet rich in nutrients, good fats, complex carbohydrates, and protein to keep his brain active and keep midday sugar cravings at bay. Finally, show your child you're there for him during these years -- to answer questions about homework, to help him master new skills, and to guide him through unfamiliar social situations. Encourage good behavior in school by creating an environment that fosters good behavior at home. "As a child learns at home to respect limits, [this] will translate ... into the classroom environment," says Amy McCready, a discipline expert and founder of Positive Parenting Solutions.
As your kid makes more friends, always know who they are and get to know their parents, which will help you stay connected to your child and protect her from certain dangers. "When they start school, it's easier for kids to become disconnected from their parents and to participate in a private world. It's important to know what?s going on in his friend's home -- who is home, who is watching the kids, and what the child is exposed to," says Meg Meeker, M.D., a pediatrician in Traverse City, Michigan and the best-selling author of six parenting books.Bullying has become national news in recent years, and it is wise to do whatever you can to protect your child from physical or emotional harm. Although it may be tempting to call the parents of the bully, most experts agree it?s better to leave these dealings to the school administration. Make sure your child's teachers and principal know about your concerns, and follow up with them to find out how they are handling the situation. See if your child's school has anti-bullying programs in place; otherwise, take these steps to protect your child further:
Most children won't experience puberty until their preteen years, but some do experience what is known as "precocious puberty," when a child's body starts to change before age 8 (for girls) and age 9 (for boys). Some children may require medication to delay this rapid onset of development. Otherwise, the normal onset of puberty can happen any time between the ages of 8 and 12. Many children may wonder if they are normal or if they're developing at the right pace. Reassure your child that everyone develops at her own pace. Giving your child a book to read on her own will help her understand her development and answer questions she may be too embarrassed to ask you. Popular books like the What's Happening to My Body series by Lynda Madaras, or newer guides like The Care and Keeping of You: The Body Book for Girls, from the American Girl Library, can make growing children feel more secure about their changing bodies and set the stage for your discussions with them about sex and development.
Want to learn more about parenting Big Kids! Join us here at Aguilar for the STEP (Systematic Training for Effective Parenting Class)!
Help your child get the most out of homework assignments with these tips.
By Karin A. Bilich
Homework not only helps a child learn about school subjects, it is also one of the first ways kids develop responsibility. Learning how to read and follow directions independently, how to manage and budget time for long-term assignments, and how to complete work neatly and to the best of their ability are skills children need for life. Homework can be trying for children, but with a little help from Mom and Dad, it can be a positive learning experience. Here are some ways you can help.
1. Designate a regular place to do homework. This location needs to be well lit and quiet, without the distractions of the television, other children playing, or people talking on the telephone.
2. Choose a time every day to work on daily assignments. Some children do best if they tackle their homework shortly after returning home from school in the afternoon; other kids may do best if they devote the after-school hours to unwinding and playing, and do their homework in the evening. However, some children respond poorly to a dictated study time, such as 4:00 every afternoon, and may be better off if they're given guidelines, such as "No video games until your homework is done."
4. Observe your child's homework habits. Is she stuck on a certain task or is she easily distracted? Does she understand the directions, or is she making the assignment harder than it really is? Is her studying interrupted by television, phone calls, or chatting with other family members? If so, you may need to rethink your homework rules or discuss these difficulties with her teacher.
5. Don't do your child's homework for her. It's perfectly okay to help your child get focused and organize her approach to the assignment, but insist that she do the work herself. Occasionally, you may need to clarify the directions of the assignment; in those cases, let your child take a stab herself before offering to help.
6. Give positive feedback. Look over your child's homework on occasion and praise him about all the things he's doing right. If you do find errors, don't criticize. Instead, review his work together and try to pinpoint his area of difficulty.
Some kids find it difficult to stay on top of homework after a long school day. Here are 3 things parents can do to make the process less stressful.
By Kara Corridan
This is a topic that's top-of-mind for me right now, as my 9-year-old daughter becomes increasingly persistent about wanting to have more and more of an online presence. She's on Pinterest, which feels pretty harmless to me--when she even remembers to go on it, she pins pictures of desserts and puppies and bunnies. Over Christmas break I caved and let her join Instagram, on several conditions (such as no pics of herself, and no accepting followers without checking with me first). So far it's working out okay, though there have been a few bumps. For one thing, she was startled and downright confused when a stranger commented on her comment, "Are you retarted?" (I pointed out the irony of the misspelling.) This gave us the chance to discuss what I'd warned her could happen by being on social media, which is that she could get her feelings hurt. Last week she came to me, terrified, after looking up a story about a dead girl who came back to life as a ghost that she'd seen posts about on Instagram. I was able to show her the stories she missed, the ones explaining that it's a total urban legend, and used the opportunity to talk about how real and convincing things can seem online. ("But there's a picture of her and everything!")
Because I feel only barely prepared for everything that's ahead of us, I was so glad to attend a symposium last night called "How Social Media Influences Our Children's Development," organized by The Meeting House, an impressive NYC nonprofit that provides innovative programs for children with social and developmental challenges. (Full disclosure: My sister, a pediatric occupational therapist, works for The Meeting House.) What I found interesting, and somewhat refreshing, about the event is that while the panelists covered the downsides to having children on social media, they spent as much--if not more--time on the benefits and values. I left with these key takeaways:
1. Children need a social-media mentor, someone in the know who can help them navigate the right way to behave online. Ideally, that would be a teacher or a librarian. But as keynote speaker Mega M. Subramaniam, Ph.D., explained, teachers and librarians rarely have the opportunity to guide our kids in that way, because school and public computers automatically filter out all social media sites. Of course, there's a good reason for that. But I hadn't thought of the downside until Dr. Subramaniam pointed it out. She's the associate director of Information Policy and Access Center at the University of Maryland, and runs several social media literacy programs for tweens, and she suggests that in place of a trusted adult, find an older teen your child looks up to--a cousin, a babysitter, a camp counselor--who's demonstrated responsibility online, and have that person help show him the ropes.
2. There's a value to texting, even among younger kids. Julia is dying to text with her friends. I'm not allowing it. I feel it's pointless--what on earth is there to text about when you're in fourth grade?--and I fear it'll erode her writing and spelling skills. But more than that, I worry that texting merely provides her with another avenue to see (or do) something inappropriate or rude. The panelists agreed that 9 is a little young, but they gave me ideas on how to allow it in a controlled way when I eventually do let her text. Stay away from group texts, suggested Orit Goldhamer, Psy.D., a middle-school psychologist at The Churchill School in NYC. Otherwise Julia will get sucked into a thread of neverending emojis and "Hey"s. And let her start out by texting only to plan get-togethers (I almost called them playdates!), as opposed to aimless chitchat that could more easily go awry.
3. Have your child ask herself one simple question before posting anything. And the question is this: "Would you show this to your grandmother?" Oooh. Good one. Or maybe this would work better for you: "Would you be proud to have your teacher see this?" I'll be suggesting that Julia consider both of these.
4. Sign a digital media contract with your child. This will cover everything from time restrictions, to passwords, to where devices need to be kept at bedtime, to the importance of kind behavior, and more. The best one I've seen is from Common Sense Media, but a quick search will give you lots of options. And more importantly than signing the contract is revisiting it, points out Scott Gaynor, Ed.D., head of school at The Stephen Gaynor School in NYC. It's tempting to go over the rules once and shove the paper in a drawer, but just like any important topic we want our children to understand, we need to talk about it often.
5. Fun fact: There's an unspoken rule among kids that you post to Instagram no more than once a day. It's clear that my daughter, who only gets to use her phone on weekends and goes to town on Instagram for those two days and nights, has no idea about this one.
Image: Surprised children on mobile phone via Shutterstock.
Kara Corridan is the health director at Parents. Her two daughters, ages 6 and 9, will tell you they have cell phones "with NO SERVICE."