My son has been going through some changes this fall -- and no, I don't mean puberty. He's almost nine years old now, and lately he's been having these intense emotional outbursts. As in, he's working on a project or playing a video game, makes a little mistake, and suddenly He Hates His Life! Everything Is Bad! This Is the Worst Day Ever! This Is the Worst Year! He Hates Growing Up! HE HATES EVERYTHING!
And on the other extreme -- he's obsessed with stuffed animals. He's cuddly but clingy. He even regresses sometimes, talking in a baby voice. What the hell! I thought it was just my kid and some of the changes our family is going through. But then I told a friend of mine and she said her son was going through the exact same stage. That's right -- it's just a super-fun developmental stage! Here's how you and your child can survive (and thrive) the nine-year-old changes.
Austrian philosopher Rudolf Steiner, who founded Waldorf education, says nine-going-on-ten is the point where a child transitions out of sweet, dreamlike early childhood. He described it as a physical and consciousness transformation -- or you could call it a kid's existential crisis. Suddenly children are aware of themselves as individuals, separate from the world -- and this can be disturbing. Child psychologist Jean Piaget called it the "period of industry" when a child begins to identify more with groups outside the family unit, a push-pull between independence and a need for parental guidance and security.
1. Don't try to fix every negative emotion. I think especially for attachment-style parents we're used to being able to quickly soothe our children. But at this point it's important for children to feel their feelings, even if they're frightening or upsetting. Just make sure they know you're there if they need you.
2. Help them understand that there's nothing wrong with them -- it's a stage. They're changing -- and growth is normal. Read up and make sure you understand what's going on, too.
3. Encourage your child to create and to spend time outdoors. Get out and explore the natural world. Find opportunities to build forts, work on farms. Encourage your child to build things and to express themselves creatively.
4. Encourage your child to explore logic. This time of new self-awareness is a time for your child to think about why and how we know what we know.
5. Waldorf education encourages certain stories to support nine-year-olds in transition, including the stories in the Old Testament and mythology, stories about transformation and transition. Here's a possible reading list for nine-year-olds.
I really like how Rahima Baldwin Dancy describes the nine-year-old change, if you want to learn more.
Have you noticed major changes in your kids at eight, nine, or ten?
Image via Michael Newton/Flickr