Each category includes a “Parents should” section!

As your child is growing and developing physically, socially, emotionally, and intellectually, it’s important for parents to recognize what stage in development their child is at. Parents who recognize the differences in the developmental growth stages are often able to successfully change their parenting strategies and techniques, as their child grows older. Read through the developmental differences listed below. Keep in mind that children grow at different rates with different degrees of success and failure. Just as the sun comes up in the east, however, much of the developmental traits listed below hold true for most children. As always, check with your medical doctor while your child is getting his or her annual physical to answer questions regarding your child’s development.

Elementary Ages 5-10
Middle School Ages 11-14
High School Ages 14-18

Physical Development

· Physical development in this age group includes steady growth patterns.
· Gross motor (large muscles) are more developed than fine motor (small muscle). Elementary children are able to run and jump and control the larger muscles in their legs. They have a more difficult time holding small items, catching or putting something together using their fingers.
· Elementary children learn through movement. Physical education is important during these developmental years. Let them touch and run!
· The body and mind seldom work together.

Parents should:
1. Let their child move and explore.
2. Assist their child and let their child practice cutting with a scissors, adjusting writing utensils and using their fingers as often as possible.
3. Not allow their child to lift weights or continually participate in activities that over stress large muscles (Example: Participate in three soccer games or five hour gymnastic training in one day).
4. Encourage their child to be active and have FUN!

Middle School
· Rapid growth is common in the physical developmental stage. Girls often physically mature faster than boys. Girls are often taller than boys. It’s not uncommon for children in this age group to be tall (six feet or above) or short (five feet or below).
· Puberty kicks in! Hormones take over. Skin (acne), hair and sexual organs are affected and begin to occur without the child and parent even realizing that this is normal.
· Energy, energy, energy! Energy spurts are common. Let them run!!!
· Aggressive behavior often occurs. Boys are often more physical than girls. Girls often tend to become more verbal.

Parents should:
1. Begin to help their child eat the right foods. Too many middle school children are eating and drinking too much sugar and eating fatty foods.
2. Encourage their child to be active, but not over active. Limit television and interactive TV finger games to no more than two hours per day. “Get out and play!”
3. Assist their middle school child in becoming involved in physical activities that include their peers.
4. Avoid weight training that consists of heavy weights or “maxing.” Avoid weight gain or weight loss diets. Eat three healthy meals per day. Yes they are hungry after school. Fruits, sugar low cereals and low grease snacks are often necessary to restore energy loss during the school day.
5. Get off the couch yourself parents! Get involved in a physical activity that you and your middle school child can do together. Then they may start talking to you again!
6. NOT tell their middle school child, “You are getting fat.” This will no doubt hurt their emotional well-being. Remember, children in this age group are already highly critical of themselves. Encourage a proper diet and exercise plan. Consult the child medical doctor. Avoid being verbally critical of their body. They are most likely already being criticized by others in their peer group.

High School
· Steady and slow growth development occurs in children in this age group.
· High school students gradually take control over both fine and gross motor skills For example: high school students become more proficient in art (handling paint brushes) and physical education (dribbling a basketball).
· Children in the age group begin to demonstrate adult-like physical traits. Shaving is now a common occurrence for both boys and girls.
· The body and mind begin to work together!

Parents should:
1. Read #1-6 above.
2. Help their child become involved in physical activities that they can do for the rest of their lives. Yes, football and volleyball are great, but you can play golf and dance for the rest of your life!
3. Begin to limit the competitive activities if they are over stressing your high school child. Encourage fun, safe and physical activities that include you and their peer group.
4. Become knowledgeable of steroids, weight gain products and weight gain techniques that are not being managed by weight train professionals. Research has proven that steroid use and Creatine maxing can be harmful to the body and even cause death. KNOW WHAT YOUR CHILD’S PHYSICAL ACTIVITIES INVOLVE!

Intellectual Development

· Rapid and steady growth of intelligence occurs within this age group.
· Elementary children have a short attention span (15-20 minutes).
· Elementary children generally enjoy learning.
· This age group usually has a difficult time making choices and decisions.
· Elementary children are not analytical in nature. Processing and analyzing information is not a common developmental trait.

Parents should:
1. Read to and with your elementary child. Yes! Read. Read. Read!
2. Be prepared to change academic subject areas after 15-20 minutes to help keep the child engaged. This includes reading a book, playing a game, writing, counting etc. This time frame will allow the parent to have a greater chance to succeed in teaching, modeling and engaging the child study interest.
3. Be patient! Elementary children usually love to learn. Be careful not to take this love by being overly critical of mistakes or failures. Make learning FUN!
4. Help your child to make decisions and choices by limiting their options to two or three choices. Again, be patient.
5. Avoid using a lot of analogies when you know that your child is having a difficult time processing information. Provide simple answers, comparison and have your child explain to you what you said to see if they understand.
6. Realize that an elementary child that scores high on an IQ scale, nationally norm test and other testing instruments does not mean that the child is physically, socially or emotionally ready to become involved in activities that require these developmental traits to succeed. See the Social-Emotional section in Scott Counseling for more information.

Middle School
· Middle school children usually demonstrate slow brain growth patterns.
· Children in this age group may ask analytical questions, but seldom are able to develop analytical solutions to solve their questions.
· Attention span falls in the range of 30-40 minutes.
· Middle school children learn more when they are given a chance to apply what they learn. Block scheduling in middle schools are common to accommodate this learning technique.

Parents should:
1. Continually communicate with your child in regards to academic performance. DO NOT NAG! Use fewer words when asking for information regarding school or academic information.
2. If the school has a computerized parent portal, use it! (Parent portals or teacher academic grade books allow parents to see how their child is performing in the classroom on a daily/weekly basis.)
3. Become comfortable in e-mailing teachers, coaches and other adults that work with your child on a weekly basis when your child is having difficulties. Voice-mail is another option that is commonly used.
4. Realize that your child’s interest in school may become secondary to his or her friends. Continue to encourage, set limit, set time frames when schoolwork must be done.
5. Help your child apply what they have learned. Let them begin to paint, help you balance the checkbook, play a game that requires the use of math (cribbage) and be responsible for chores around the house.
6. Read, read and read! That goes for you too!
7. Accept your child’s intellectual abilities. IQ does not stand for Immense Quality human being. Love your child no matter how much brainpower he or she has been provided by you.
8. Do not be afraid to let your child fail. This is a great age to learn from failure without suffering the greater consequences that comes later in high school and adulthood.

High School
· Steady growth in learning begins to occur again between the ages of 14 and 16 years of age.
· Children around the age of 16 begin to develop an analytical solution process to solve their analytical questions.
· Attention span is more adult-like (50-60 minutes).
· High school students are more interested in what they are learning when they are given an opportunity to apply what they learn.

Parents should:
1. Read #1-7 above.
2. Begin to speak and know their child’s true interests in life. This does not necessary mean their career options, but what interest they have in the academic areas of school.
3. Become familiar with their high school academic schedule options.
4. Become familiar with graduation and post secondary requirements. Attend the parent seminars provided by the high school guidance department that provides parent with these requirements.

Emotional Development

· Elementary children generally want to please their parents, teachers and other adults in their lives.
· The children in this age group are usually able to demonstrate empathy for others.
· Elementary children are often dependent on adults to reassure them.
· Moods swings are often predicable and most often easy for adults to handle.

Parents should:
1. Monitor your child’s stress level. Your child’s life should be balanced with family time, learning time, social time and down time (time alone).
2. Begin to teach your child to accept who they are. It’s okay for children to learn their shortcomings as long as they know their positive strengths. Do not praise your child just for the sake of praise. Be specific with your positive words. For example: “I like the way you helped me with the dishes. You should be proud of yourself. I am.”
3. Self-esteem is just that- their self-esteem. PARENTS CANNOT BUILD THEIR CHILD’S SELF-ESTEEM! The parent can only put their child in situations where they have a chance to succeed. With each success, children learn that self-esteem is built by their own efforts, not by someone else’s efforts. Each individual success builds confidence. Each individual failure provides the child with another opportunity to succeed.

Middle School
· Middle school children have been described (by many educational experts) as being emotionally unstable. “Everything is a crisis!”
· Children in this age group often want their independence.
· Rejection of adult advice and “talking back” are common personality traits.
· Mood fluctuation is common. One minute they are adult-like, the next they are child-like.
· Middle school children are often highly critical of themselves.

Parents should:
1. Realize that their middle school child will have highs and lows in their in their day.
2. Pick your battles! If your middle school child is doing their homework (for once) leave the messy bedroom battle alone. Don’t let your middle school child get you on the mood roller coaster with them. Stay on the ground! Be calm when they are not calm. Get excited when they are too calm.
3. Do not be highly critical. Remember, they are sometimes their own worse enemy. Many kids in this age group already wish they were someone else.
4. Listen to your child. Ask him or her how they are feeling. Don’t assume if they tell you that they are angry or super happy that that’s their only feeling. Sometimes angry means hurt, and sometimes super happy means exhausted. Help your child find the right words to accurately describe how they feel.
5. No matter what happens, always end their day with, “I love you!”

High School
· Mood fluctuations may still be common, but emotional stability begins to stabilize as they enter their junior and senior year of high school.
· As high school student begin to accept more responsibilities (driving a car, dating, getting a job etc.) they will begin to show more signs of emotional maturity.
· High school student are more adult-like with their emotions. However, they lack adult experience to handle adult emotional issues.
· High school students desire and must be given more independence before they leave their home.

Parents should:
1. Realize the emotional stress that high school students are facing each day. Consider the following:
· Nationwide high school-age surveys are showing more and more high school students are contemplating suicide than ever before.
· More and more high school students are searching the right stress relief. Too often this relief is found in drugs, sex, negative aggression (fights) and criminal behavior.
· The pressure to go to college, get a good job and become successful (make lots of money) is often being drilled into their heads over and over.
2. Talk to your high school child and put together a working plan that allows for family, school, school activities, job and social time that works for the child. This plan should be put together with long and short-term goals. It should also be altered when the child is becoming emotionally stressed.
3. Watch for a sudden change of behavior and moods that are uncharacteristic of your child. If your child no longer wants to be with his or her friends, begins to isolate or spends a lot of time alone, lashes out in anger, seek medical attention. Start with your family doctor and your medical insurance advisor.

Social Development

· Elementary children usually lack social skills. They need to be taught and provided actual time to learn how to interact with their peers.
· Children in this age group usually have a difficult time sharing.
· Elementary children will often sight their parents and close relative as their best friends.
· Social needs for making friends will fluctuate from child to child in this age group. It is okay for children in this age group to want to play alone. Parents must often encourage their child to interact with others.

Parents should:
1. Provide their children with opportunities to be social outside of the family setting. It is important that you team with other parents who have children who attend your child’s school, church, sports programs and other activities your child is involved with to make social arrangements.
2. Do not force your child to be social when they are not ready. Be patient and encourage your child to participate with other children. Avoid making your child feel bad if they do not wish to be social.
3. Be a role model. Make friends first with the parents who have children your child’s age.
4. Let your child know that making friends takes practice. Tell them it’s important to share, be polite and follow the rules that you have established for them.

Middle School
· Middle school children usually have a high need to be social. Learning and being with their parents often become secondary to their social needs.
· Children in this age group often show allegiance to their peers.
· A great desire for secrecy and privacy may begin to develop.
· Being a part of the group is very important to most middle school children.
· Children in this age group will begin to mirror their social peers using words (“huh? duh?, ya right”etc.), using gestures (rolling eyeballs) and sighing a lot are common. “Get real mom! You should know this by now!”

Parents should:
1. Sit down with your middle school child and establish boundaries for social experiences. The discussion should include phone and Internet use, being with friends when parents are not around, social expectations in school, church and other activities.
2. Provide your child with time to be with his or her friends. Because middle school children do not drive cars, parents may have to help their child meet at appropriate times with friends.
3. Become acquainted with your child’s friend’s parents. Yes, good parents do speak with other parents. Don’t let your middle school child tell you differently!
4. Avoid being your child’s friend. You are the parent. The parent’s role is bigger than being your child’s friend. Let your child know that you love him or her, but you will always be the parent first. This does not mean that you can’t be social and go to a movie with your child. It means you are a role model, mentor, and financial provider, there when he or she really needs you, and the person who says “no” when they need to hear it.
5. Discuss peer pressure with your child. Discuss various scenarios (both good and bad) that you child may encounter. Help your child to come up with a solution for a potential problem before it exists.
6. Realize that being or feeling left out and isolated by friends who your child feels no longer likes him or her is very hurtful and can be harmful to your child’s social and emotional growth. See the section titled “Left Out” for parenting strategies and informational resources.

High School
· High school students often become more accepting of people who are different from them.
· High school students begin to open their social group to include others who they were once uncomfortable in being with.
· High school student go back to accepting their parents as being human beings. This often takes place right before they leave the home or when they want the Visa card.

Parents should:
1. Continue to communicate with your high school child to discuss current friends, dating, peer pressure etc. by reading through #1-6 above.
2. Help your high school child plan acceptable social activities. Parents who want to help their child plan a party in their home must also understand that they could be liable if an injury occurs or a community law is broken. Speak with your child as you become more familiar with your responsibilities as a parent before you host high school social activities. It’s often best to plan larger social activities with other parents who can help monitor the social gathering with you. It’s wise to limit the number of high school students who attend a gathering in your home.
3. Avoid picking your child’s friends for him or her. Your child will most likely continue to “hang” with this friend in other places that you have no control over. If you disapprove of one of your child’s friends because they do not follow the values that you are trying to instill in your child, speak to your child alone about your concern. Be specific. For example: “I am concerned about you being with this person because she smokes. How is her smoking affecting you?” Stay calm and avoid being judgmental. Most children overtime conform and adhere to the values that their parents instill in them.

Author's Bio: 

Scott Wardell is the creator and author of ScottCounseling.com. ScottCounseling offers parents hundreds of free parenting articles and online e-mail counseling services.

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