Congratulations! You made it through 8 years of parenting, that’s a true accomplishment. All this trials and tribulations you and your child went through were all building block for coming attractions. Welcome to the first new ride after 8, this is what we in the child development world like to call “The 9 Year Change.”
What is the world like for your child before 9?
Well, in their mind they are a part of everything and everything is a part of them. We are all connected with the earth and the earth is connected with us. Just as a reference, the rocks and the trees…might not be alive, but then again, they are. Their minds and thoughts evolve around the world being good and evil does not exist. Ever notice how well children 1-8 are masterminds of imaginary play? It’s because they haven’t plunged to 9 yet.
So after 9, what changes?
In the year of 9-10 your child because more self-aware, realizing that they are separate, and they have to start all over again, with a new understanding and perceptions of the wold…and that for them, is really scary!
The 9 year old also takes adults off their pedestals; the child begins to see them as having flaws, adults, in fact, are not perfect! This has the ability to upset the child, and scare them because that is a big change. They may pull back and become aloof or critical.
9 year olds are looking to authority figures to show them
- How do people carry themselves in the world?
- How do I make decisions?
- What IS important?
what are signs of 9 year change?
- Fear of death– (inner sense of death of childhood, first thoughts of mortality)
- Nightmares, fear of darkness (“there’s a robber in the house” hinting at the their of the innocence of childhood)
- Doubting that s/he is really your child.
- Fluctuations between baby, childish behavior and the behavior of a 14 year old adolescent – sometimes within 5 minutes! (these swings usually last 3-6 months)
- Alienation-nobody likes me
- Seeks out alone time…”thinking”
- Cries for no apparent reason – “I don’t know what’s wrong”
- Separation – realization that ” I am me and no one can know my thoughts.”
- Sadness or disgust at the loss of magical beauty of childhood
- Critical of everything/everyone (except for perhaps their beloved pet, who always love and understands them)
- Testing your love – they might do something overtly defiant.
- Lying– to prove this new awareness that the child is not just an extension of mom or dad, she may purposefully lie to you, just to see if you know s/he is lying.
highlights of the 9 year change
Let’s rejoice at this new consciousness, for only out of antipathy can the child really begin to learn. The ability to separate from the subject matter is crucial for analytical thinking and development of critical judgment. This is also the evolution of an active inner life; the beginning of following a thought to see where it leads.
The 9 year old becomes a keen observer who is interested in the world and how things work. S/he no longer takes things for granted.
During this time, lots of energy and enthusiasm is released for leraning survival skills – a need to master their environment.
Children this age are forced to develop good communication skills so that their needs, thoughts, and ideas are understood.
During this 9 year change the child begins to refine/develop discrimination: I want this, I do’t want that. This skill is necessary for making life choices.
A child that truly experiences this separation will have an easier adolescence. This who sail right through this time and don’t even seem to struggle, will do so around 14, but it will be much more difficult (for parent and child).
How to support your child during the 9 year change
- Understand their need for privacy- knock on doors, don’t press your child who is not ready to share feelings – sometimes s/he just needs to be held. If at all possible, allow your child their own room or at least a special space in the house.
- Don’t catapult your child into being a teenager – Just because they may act like teenagers at times, doe not mean that they are ready to be treated as such.
- Delineate the accountability/responsibility – For example: before my daughter could have her ears pierced, she had to demonstrate that she could take care of her personal hygiene for a month without me “hounding” her to wash her hair, brush her teeth, etc. The reason for this was the very fact that new piercings require daily activities to ensure that the site does not get infected. She had to show us that she was capable of this “adult” responsibility.
- Strive to use positive reinforcement as a way of encouraging desirable behavior; guard against using criticism.
- DO NOT make comments about your child’s shape or weight. Also, be careful not to discuss your own body issues in front of your child. This can easily set the stage for anorexia or other eating disorders.
- Provide guidance through loving, wise authority; children at this age need to know that the adults in their lives are making choice for them to of wisdom and consciousness.
- Before leveling a punishment take time out to really think it through: is it fair, appropriate – something you can support tomorrow when the emotions have settled? Can you feel good about the consequence? Then make sure to follow through with your decision.
- Develop a thick skin! The ” I hate you!” can be responded with “that’s ok, I’ll love you enough for the both of us.”
- Have open lines of communication with your Child’s teacher. There are a lot of things that happen at school, and you only hear about maybe one or two. On top of that, you’re only getting one side of the story. Give your child the benefit of the doubt but also check with their teacher to get the full story. Then facilitate your child’s response and emotions following the details.
Truly have compassion and empathy for your child in this phase of life. It is as if they are being reborn again but into a very scary world. They are going to have their highs and they’ll have their very low, lows. It is your job as their parent to help them navigate this new season.
It is critical in this time that you set boundaries for you child. Children are comforted by boundaries. They desire order and consistency (even though they’ll never tell you that). Your child need boundaries to help them feel a sense of control. Knowing what is acceptable and what is not, alters their way of thinking.
Lastly, model the behavior you want to see them emulate one day. They need to see you try and not give up. It is okay to tell them when something is difficult but they need to see you work through it.
There are so many complexities to parenting. Give yourself a high-five for trudging through the storms and being the light your child needs.