Puberty Part One

Often on Waldorf lists and groups, I see threads regarding puberty.  These threads typically concern the outward signs of puberty, or perhaps issues not of puberty but of sexuality, such as a discussion on what to tell a six-year old or a nine-year old about sexual relationships.

I have already discussed in an earlier post how the development of the child during something such as the nine year change is viewed from a spiritual place that looks at the development of the soul, and how the curriculum and parenting in a Waldorf way meets the child during this point whether outward, physical signs of puberty are taking place or not.

This is one of the best articles I have read regarding puberty Continue reading

The Nine-Year-Change and Puberty

I have gotten some private emails lately regarding the nine-year-change and puberty, so I wanted to write something for this space for other parents searching for support and information during this time.

In the view of Waldorf Education, the soul is coming down into the body.  However, I think the outward manifestation of puberty (odors, even breasts budding or getting hair in private areas) doesn’t change the course of the curriculum, nor really the developmental level that you are parenting in.  A nine-year old is still a nine-year old, whether she has started her menstrual cycle or not.    Puberty is an outward manifestation of the body, but the nine-year change is more an inner crisis of the soul and of middle childhood.

I hear a lot from parents of eight year olds and they are sure they are in the nine-year change.  Well, the child could be, but what I often find is that Continue reading

Attachment And Individualization

I think as homeschooling families, one of our  main goals is always the connection of the family and how we stay attached to each other in a society that sometimes doesn’t seem to value that at all.  Some of the homeschooling families who read my blog, many of them, are also what has been termed and made popular in the common literature by Dr. Sears as “attachment parents.”

But what I want to talk about today is the development of the independence of the child  within the context of attachment.  I don’t think attachment and becoming more of an individual, more independent and more capable are mutually exclusive at all – we can still be attached but have separate psychological identities.  In fact, I would argue,  in order to become an adult that has a meaningful role within their own family and and as a citizen of the world, this has to happen.  We have all heard the jokes or seen instances of people whose adult lives were totally enmeshed with their parents.  It is funny for a television show, but not so funny in real life.  Enmeshment prohibits a child and an adult from reaching the fullness and freedom of who they are.

I think healthy attachment starts not only with connection, lots of connection and including but not being limited to extended breastfeeding and co-sleeping, but with loving authority and boundaries.  I think if you have read this blog for any length of time I have made that abundantly clear.  I think I have also talked a fair bit about boundaries.  Boundaries, in its essence, is not just how “strict or loose” your parenting style is; it is about how you GUIDE your child to HEALTH as a growing, developing SEPARATE individual.  It is also about creating balance, and creating opportunity for right growth, especially for those children where self-growth and self-development are not initiated.

Separation, to me, starts around the child is age three and says “I” for the first time.  That is the beginning, the spark of recognition that “I am myself.”  I may not know or understand all that means yet, but I am me.  Bernard Lievegoed, author of “Phases of Childhood,” marks this as a stage of self-awareness.  This can also be a phase of negativity from the child; by pushing against the outside world the child begins to develop the self.

It continues with the six/seven year old change.  Some parents write me and say, “My child went through the six/seven year old change.  They slammed doors, said they hated me, said that I was not the boss of them.  Then they were done.”

Okay, but let me put this out to you:  the six/seven year old change, to me, is not just about “you’re not the boss of me.”   It is about finding a psychological identity that is separate from parents – that they have a role in the family or at school, they know what that treasured and valued role is, and that they do  feel accepted and loved but also a bit “separate”, a bit ready to take a view on something…there is a shift toward the child having real opinions about the world, that may be different than the parent’s view, and that in this view that the child has a continuous self and therefore can participate in learning.   At this stage, children in the six/seven year change usually  also are interested in having friends, being a friend, in having community outside of their family.  I think many times this is neglected and not mentioned in Waldorf Educational literature, because the assumption is the child is at the school in community.  I think this is an important point for homeschooling families when looking at the development of their child.  To me, turning outward toward community and peers and not just within the family, is a hallmark of the six/seven change.

This process can take up to a year and a half, I think especially for sensitive children who haven’t had a lot of opportunity to be around  other children, or just children who develop a little bit slower.  They may not be as interested in peers until the nine –year change, but then I have personally observed that that change may be a much more difficult one than the six/seven year change.

I think one way we can gauge where are children are in the six/seven change is to look at their play(see the many, many back posts on play on this site about how play changes during the six/seven year old change), and to  look at their drawings of human beings, a house and a tree.  Here is an interesting, brief look at drawings made by two thousand German five and six year olds prior to school entrance, comparing drawings made by those who did and didn’t watch media, those who did and did inhale passive cigarette smoke, and those with psychological disturbances:  http://www.waldorflibrary.org/images/stories/articles/RB13_2rittelmeyer.pdf  There are whole books on working with children’s drawings in Waldorf Education; you can check Rudolf Steiner College Bookstore or Bob and Nancy’s Bookshop for those titles.

For the nine/ten year old going through this change feels utterly and sometimes desperately alone, apart from humanity, out of the Garden of secure family.  They have an experience of self and it is a tragedy; there is no shelter of the family or of being with friends. Therefore, I believe firmly that children who do not have a strong sense of community and belonging built up through early childhood through family, extended family and strong friendships can have an even more fragile nine year change.  Boundaries and loving authority can also make this change better, along with loving connection.  The child is becoming an individual.

From the viewpoint of Waldorf Education, three things are traditionally seen as helping a child become an individual:  childhood diseases, what author Edmond Schoorel in his book “The First Seven Years: Physiology of Childhood” calls “naughtiness” (which made me chuckle!), curiosity, and we develop memory.  One that Schoorel mentions briefly, and that Bernard Lievegoed discusses further is that of the force of antipathy.  “Very often there is the tendency to concentrate only on positive feelings.  This is impossible.  It destroys  the drama, the basic law of feeling.  Any attempt to present only positive feeling results in superficial sentiment.  Feelings are brought forth from contrast and the nature of their polarity…It is not a matter of guarding children  from negative feelings or denying them as such, it is a matter of presenting the feelings as opposites in the correct way.” (Lievegoed, page 170).

I don’t want to go into too much detail here, but I do want to leave you with a few teasing comments by Edmond Schoorel:

  • “Children do not need to understand everything; it is even better when they don’t..It is essential for children to have the opportunity to ask questions; yet they do not need answers on the level of their understanding.  Mysteries are interesting because we do not have an answer.”  (page 260)
  • “When children have too little curiosity, we face the question:  can we stimulate curiosity?  I think that we can do this only in an indirect way.  When weakness has to do with the child’s constitution, we may have to work with movement development.” (page 248)
  • “Naughtiness can be a first exercise in waking up.  With naughtiness, the child turns away from the order of which he or she was a part.  It is a first step toward freedom and individuality.”  (page 246)

And this process of connection to others, and connection to ourselves,  continues as we grow and change throughout our lives. And sometimes we realize, yes, our circumstances and such may have been specific to us, but the tumult of different ages was by no means unique but being part of the human race.

Many blessings,

Carrie

Boundaries

Friends, I have been hearing from a lot of you recently via email and many of you are struggling with boundaries in your lives.  I am not a counselor, and I am not a psychologist, but I wanted to tell you a few things I have learned about boundaries along the way in the experience of my life and I hope it will be helpful to you. I encourage you if you are having challenges with this to go and talk to a qualified counselor.  This can be so helpful in getting your life, your family and your parenting going the way you want it to!  What a wonderful way to start the New Year!

Boundaries, to me, are a skill that many of us have to learn.  Perhaps our ability to set boundaries was damaged in childhood or early adulthood.  Perhaps we are not even sure what a boundary is or why we would want boundaries.  Or perhaps we have too many boundaries and have erected relentless walls in order to keep the world out.

Yet, healthy boundaries are so necessary.  A boundary is something we set in order to separate ourselves from other people; it tells us how far a person can go with us and how far we can go with another person.  It keeps us from becoming enmeshed with another person:  enmeshment is a complete state of feeling so empathetically with that person that we take on the other person’s feelings, responsibilities,challenges and problems completely and wholly as our own.   As parents, we are separate from our children; we are different people. And, boundaries not only separate us from our children, but it also shows how we are linked together in familial roles.  We are linked together, but we are not the same.  We are the adult.  The relationship is not an equal one.  We have more experience and more guidance, more logic and reasoning to bring to any situation.  We also have a duty to honor the developmental stage of our child and we can do this with boundaries.

Relationships without boundaries cause dependency and stunted emotional growth for both ourselves and the other party involved.   If we have too many boundaries, no one can get close to us at all and we end up isolated and alone.   With good boundaries, we learn to develop an appropriate sense of roles amongst family members and the other people in our lives. We learn to respect ourselves and others.  We can trust and listen not only to ourselves, but to others.

Specifically in parenting, boundaries allow children to feel safe and secure.  Boundaries helps children learn self-control and how to function with people outside of their immediate family. Parents who set good boundaries for themselves and for their children are modeling for the children, how, in turn, to set emotional and physical boundaries for themselves.  If we can be calm as a child tests out what the boundary and line in the sand actually is, then we are modeling for our child how to handle this in their own lives.   We help them learn how to function in the world.

For parents who have trouble setting any boundaries for their children, out of “respect” for the child,  I often will ask the parent: Continue reading

How The Shy/Fearful Child Learns To Expand Their World

So, I have no  research studies on this at all…this is from my own experience and observations in working with families who have had extremely shy and almost fearful children.   I am not really talking about children who are more inward; all of us are on the continuum of extrovert to introvert if we look at personality.  I am thinking hear of children who are rather socially anxious, fearful a bit… Many of these children whom I have observed were only truly comfortable with their mothers and no one else.   Many of these children were first-born children, but not all of them, and many of them were girls, but again, not all of them.  This is my special small population sample.

This is how I have personally observed this type of child’s progress into the world outside of his or her mother: Continue reading

The Melancholic Child–Ages 7 and Up

 

 

(This post is not meant to address children who are clinically depressed.  Please speak to a health care professional if you feel your child is depressed). 

 

Then you should know exactly which children lean toward

inner reflection and are inclined to brood over things; these are

the melancholic children. It is not easy to give them impressions

of the outer world. They brood quietly within themselves,

but this does not mean that they are unoccupied in their

inner being. On the contrary, we have the impression that they

are active inwardly.  – “Discussions With Teachers” Lecture One, Rudolf Steiner

 

Rudolf Steiner was not the first person to work with the ideas of the human temperaments;   the Greek physician Hippocrates incorporated the four temperaments into his medical work and the temperaments have made their way into medicine and psychology since then.  Rudolf Steiner linked the four temperaments to not only his ideas regarding the four fold human being, but also to the different developmental cycles of the human being.  For example, he felt the early childhood years of birth through seven were a predominantly sanguine time.

 

When we look at children, I have spoken to many mothers who feel the predominant temperament of their child is melancholic.  Many melancholic children have a particular physical body type – tall, slender, mournful eyes, a slow gait.  They tend to think a lot about the past, themselves, and they have a good memory concerning things that happen to themselves.   They tend to analyze, brood and have a strong attention to detail.  Many times they are bothered by the idea of imperfection.  I find many melancholic children in my own life can be rather inflexible, and when things do not happen according to the pictures or thoughts they have laid out, they can become extremely upset or angry.

 

Many times melancholic children seem to have a poor quality of relationships with others.  These may be the children who have only a few good friends.  They can be drawn into relationships if something strikes them as unjust or unfair; sticking up for the underdog is often part of a melancholic child’s connection and sympathy to another person’s pain and suffering.

 

Here is my area of caution after working with many families over the years:  Please do not confuse the melancholic child with something else.  I have talked to many mothers who felt their child was melancholic, but when I looked at the child in person and observed them and the family, it seemed to me that the whole family may have been in  a stressful, rough patch that was feeding the child’s feelings that the world was not a good place and that the child was working with this sad, unjust feeling as projected from the mother or other attachment figure in the family.  Once the family became stabilized, the child also stabilized.  This is not true melancholia as a temperamental trait. 

 

I have also seen videos of children with sensory issues whose parents were clearly worn out by a child’s behavior and sometimes the child would respond with complaining and  brooding to try to arouse the parent’s attention and sympathy.  This is a scenario too long and complicated to get into via electronic medium, but again, I don’t think that is a true melancholic child.  That is a child trying to elicit attention and increased energy from a parent.  The take away  message is that if your own energy is really low, your child may be acting melancholic to try to arouse something out of you!   We must always look to ourselves first. 

 

And complaining does not always equal a melancholic child either.  I think we have to look at the whole picture of the whole child.  A child may complain and feel lonely through the nine year change, for example, but that is a developmental stage, but not true melancholia as a tempermental trait.

 

The way to work with a melancholic, as advised by many resources, is to listen carefully to the melancholic child’s deep and brooding thoughts and to tell them stories about others who have suffered or times of your own suffering in order to connect.

 

I think this works well in a classroom,  and we can also use it in the home environment.  However, I think there is something more that should predominate with a melancholic child in the home environment:  we have to be careful to listen, but not be a captive stage for hours on end by long tales of the woe of the melancholic child.  This can be a tricky balance!  The melancholic child should not set the tone for the home; we should as parents set the tone for our house.   In the home environment where we are with our children 24/7, it is important to demonstrate to the melancholic child how we protect our own emotional boundaries because this is an important aspect of modeling emotional health for this temperament type.  We can carefully listen to our child and then say  that we have certainly heard them, and that we will carry their thoughts with us whilst we go do the dishes or brush the dog.  We can help engage these children in real work, and get them physically moving instead of wallowing in their own negativity.   I find melancholic children often need more exercise and sometimes even more opportunities to be socially drawn out  than they may be prone to want themselves.  Melancholic children are often happiest being creative and reading, which is wonderful, but physical movement and community is very important for these children. 

 

In my mind, this temperament also needs a strong religious and spiritual life as they grow into adolescence and adulthood in order to have something to hold onto. We want to balance these children and all four of the temperaments that are within them and within us all.

 

Blessings,
Carrie

Restlessness And Forgetfulness In The Eight To Ten Year Old

It is rather odd to me that so many mainstream parenting resources focus solely on the developmental stages and phases of the toddler and preschooler, and once a child becomes the age of children in the grades, no one seems to think these children are growing or changing in significant ways anymore!  Yet, parents of children between the ages of  7  to 14 will tell you this is a time of  incredibly rapid change.

To me, two of the hallmarks of development in the time between ages 8 to 10 involves restlessness and forgetfulness. 

It is literally so difficult for the 8 to 10 year old to settle down, to sit down, to focus at times.  It is unreasonable to think that a child in this age range will be able to sit and write and read all day long like an adult.   They are not adults, and they need a lot of movement and time to release energy.  Ways to do this include spending time in nature; neighborhood games; probably less organized sports than one thinks but more  family fun such as hiking, roller blading, roller skating, skiing, swimming, climbing; lots of breaks for movement during school; many chances for movement and DOING to permeate the subjects we are teaching in drawing, modeling, map making, painting, making models.

This is completely unpopular, but I believe strongly that media and screens for this age should be limited.  There are too many other things in life they need to experience with their hands and their restlessness is a sign of this need.

Another place this can be in conflict for homeschoolers is that  it can be very easy to want to really ramp up academics in this age range because the child seems so much more mature than earlier.  If one is not careful it is easy to lose sight that children of these ages are really in the heart of childhood and that rational thinking is not yet quite there.  Hang on, and keep including many concrete and doing ways of addressing your academic subjects.

Forgetfulness is something that very much annoys parents of children this age.  You can ask a child of this age to do something and they will forget within a moment or two. 

One of the ways we can work with this is through RHYTHM.  If the order of every morning is that we get up, we have breakfast, we get dressed and brush our hair and teeth and make our beds, then the child can follow that.  Do try to pick an order to things that works for your children.  For example, you may wish that everyone would get dressed and make their beds before breakfast but everyone wakes up starving, so craft a rhythm that takes that into account.

Chores are important, but you simply must figure out what you will do regarding the forgetfulness and dawdling around chores and what the consequences of this will be.   I have seen very individual approaches from family to family.

I think the last area surrounding forgetfulness that can be helpful is to think about bringing in habits – habits that will build character through practical life.  This takes time, and it is easy to want to work on everything at once.  Pick one area and really focus on that for forty days and see how it becomes ingrained in the child.  Sometimes for the child in this age range it can be something quite small, such as going back to making sure hands are washed before dinner, since acts of hygiene often slip around this age.  Maybe it is speaking politely; these are ages where many parents complain about the tone in which children speak.

To me, sometimes this age needs a bit of a carrot. Not a bribe at all, but more a bit of incentive.  Haven’t you ever had a really long and rough day and thought how you would try to persevere through it because you were getting to go out that night to something special, or you were going to eat something special for dinner, or you were going to call a special friend on the phone, and it made the day just a bit more bearable? To me, that is different than a bribe that is announced and “you must do this to earn this”.  It is just an incentive of something lovely that helps all days go just a little bit better and helps us keep on track.

I cannot tell you how often to try an incentive, or what that incentive even should be per say as I think that is so individual to each family and each situation, but it is just something to think about.

Just a few thoughts to ponder today!

Many blessings,
Carrie

My Advice For The Nine Year Change

I think nine years of age, in many ways, is a rather fragile time.  This sense of “I” ness and separation is coming out and beginning, but it is still rudimentary.  Criticism still cannot be separated from the overall sense of self.  It is an age to be handled with care.

I say this from experience.  Nine (Third Grade in Waldorf land) has been a rather odd year here for us.  It was a year where the academics seemed to jump up a notch, and also a year where the outside activities my daughter was involved in also seemed to jump up a bit.  (Some of it just coincidentally happened this year, but still it all seemed to converge this year for whatever reason).  I have also heard this from mothers whose children are nine and attending private and public schools as well, so I don’t think it is a complete anomaly to our family. 

My advice to mothers planning for fall for  their nine year old’s year is to keep it very simple.  Realize that some nine year olds really regress in writing skills, so perhaps plan not to require so much in Main Lesson books and such, but rather look to practical work and projects.  Many nine year olds needs a lot of movement, so build in extra breaks throughout the day to jump rope, jump on a trampoline and play games.

Keep the extra activities to one extra thing, maybe two, but please make sure those things are not jumping into competition (ie, therefore requiring much more tiring practice than previously) or into other lands of testing and winning and losing.

Nine needs lots of space to just be and dream.  Simple answers are fine, but complete wordiness and heady explanations are not.  It truly, in my opinion, is not the time for world politics and world events, beyond very simple explanations for things that come up. 

As mentioned, activities are fine, but within a balance and weighted more towards open and free time.  For this reason, I would advise letting a sport you think will turn competitive to wait until fourth or fifth grade if you can.  I recognize there are some children who are just wired to do whatever it is that they do, but I think that is further and farther in between than society thinks. 

Let Nine just be.  It can be a year that hits hard or a year that is okay, but I think much of it depends on how much “extra” is going on.  Coming out of the other side of the nine-year-change provides a much more stable base for the child to use as a foundation to expand academic, social and practical skills.

Many blessings,

Carrie

The Nine-Year Old Girl

I have had the great privilege and honor of being able to observe a group of nine-year old girls this year.  It has been very interesting to watch their transformation and challenges.  Here are some of the things I have observed regarding the nine=year-old girl and what is going on developmentally:

  • This whole notion that they are separate from their families, mothers.  Not completely separate, but the inkling is there.  You hear phrases from them about “perhaps” they were really left in a basket on a doorstep, or a basket floating in a river, or “wouldn’t it be neat” if really they were a princess and one day they were taken back to their real family’s castle.  My daughter wondered perhaps  if I was an alien in disguise one day! 
  • Peer relationships become more important than before.  There are sleep-overs going on in my neighborhood amongst the nine-year-olds.   Some mothers have told me there is even the emergence of “cliques” at their place of worship or in other activities.   I have observed there can be  a little bit of cattiness sometimes when a “new girl” enters an activity, something the adults have been really careful to step in and guide appropriately with simple rules and being present.
  • Nine –year-olds have a strong sense of fairness, and of what is “good” and what is “bad”.  They want to do the right thing.
  • Some nine and  a half year old girls really seem to be going through bodily changes that take some adjusting to on both a physical and emotional level.  They may be gaining weight, or getting taller, or, if they became heavier at age eight, may actually be slimming down.
  • Nine-year-olds have questions about God, death,  birth, life and everything in between!
  • Nine-year-olds many times do want some separation from younger siblings.  Not all the time, but at least to have a few times here and there with just children of their own age.  I have seen this in families whether the children are homeschooled or go to public or private school.
  • Some nine-year-olds like something competitive, but nine-year-olds are also pretty hard on themselves when they cannot do something well.  They are beginning to notice what friends is good at what.
  • There is some borderline (or more) talking back to parents that does seem to occur around this age.  They know what the rules of the house are, but they don’t mind letting you know they don’t like that rule. 
  • Nine-year-olds may be interested in small businesses, making money.

Here are some suggestions for the age 9 for girls:

  • Spend time with your girl where you can focus on her and listen to her.  It may be hard for her to open up to you with smaller siblings running around and listening, and she may need time with you just the way a smaller child does.
  • Build up a supportive community for your nine-year-old that includes other adult women who are good role models for your daughter.
  • Keep reinforcing the positive things about what your daughter can do with her mind and her body.
  • Nine-year-olds really benefit from having involvement in a religious or spiritual community.  Investigate your own beliefs and work to make this happen for them.  Festivals and holidays can be carried to new heights when a nine-year old has responsibilities different than the smaller children.  They are ready!
  • Talk to your nine-year-old about money and earning money and saving money.  One resource our family has used and likes is this one from Doorposts:  http://www.doorposts.com/details.aspx?id=26
  • Talk to her about popularity and exclusion and what your values are as a family in how you treat others, how to stand your group in a group that is doing something different – and be around to supervise!
  • Daughters need their fathers.  Fathers can also talk about these issues and sometimes it carries much more weight than coming from mothers.
  • Recognize your daughter’s need for some separation as normal.  Family time is so very important, but having a time to play with children their own age here and there is also valuable.
  • Keep limiting the media.  Nine-year-olds still take things pretty concretely, the messages they see regarding body image still really affect them, and no nine-year-old needs to be propelled into teenager land.  Choose media wisely if you do it at all. 
  • Get a foundation of physical activity going.  This is important to deal with bodily changes, as well as laying a good foundation for movement prior to the heaviness and density that the age of 12 brings.

What have you noticed about your nine-year-old recently?

Many blessings,

Carrie

The Foundation Years of Ages 9-12: Decreasing High-Risk Behavior in Teens

Many of you have been following along chapter by chapter the wonderful book,  “Discipline Without Distress:  135 Tools for raising caring, responsible children WITHOUT time-out, spanking, punishment, or bribery” by Judy Arnall.

The last chapter we reviewed was the chapter regarding the teenaged years.  There were some very sobering facts in there, such as suicide is one of the top three causes of death in teens, that the average marijuana use in the US is age 14, that many children have tried alcohol by age 12.  This really has hit home  for me personally as I know three mothers  who have really struggled with their teens in the areas of addiction issues and sexual promiscuity.  One of the teens recently overdosed, was the victim of a crime,  and lost his life.  This is a heart-breaking tragedy and I have felt so sad about this.  As parents we always wonder what we could have done differently in a situation like this, and my heart hurts for this family.

Judy Arnall, in this chapter about teens, goes through some of the things parents of teenagers need (for our teenagers to respect themselves and others, to have their teenagers feel successful in their relationships, school, work and community).  She lists some of the reasons that teenagers try high-risk behaviors such as curiosity, unhealthy self-esteem and want to feel good about themselves, lack of coping skills to deal with their problems and needing to escape, not understanding that they can say “no” to a sense of obligation or pressure from peers or  partners, needing to feel grown-up, needing to rebel, needing to fit in and win approval of peers, needing to escape uncomfortable feelings, feeling invincible and not understanding the risks/benefits/ consequences, not being able to communicate their needs to their family.

I would add a few things to this list:  besides curiosity,I think  boredom coupled with  a lack of guidance by caring adults to channel this boredom or curiosity into healthy things, and also I think there is a   lack of something bigger than themselves to worry about.  I think this is extremely important.

I was talking to a dear friend about this chapter and she was saying one thing that really helped her in her teenaged years was that she was very into horses and horseback riding and that she had a horse who depended upon her every day to take of it.   That is something bigger than yourself.

I talked  about this book regarding  rites of passage  ( http://theparentingpassageway.com/2009/06/30/rite-of-passage-parenting-four-essential-experiences-to-equip-your-kids-for-life-heading-up-to-the-nine-year-change-and-beyond/), and part of the book asks essentially “what does your child do around the house that you could not be without if they were not there?”  There it is again:  what is your child involved in that is bigger than himself or herself?  How is your child tied to you, your family, your community?

If the average age of marijuana use is 14, and the average child has tried drinking before age 12, I believe the foundation for decreasing high-risk teenage behaviors HAS to start around that nine-year change (and before, of course.  Attachment and security and so many things are laid during that first seven year cycle)  But in many ways, I think because that nine-year change is a watershed where your child starts to feel separate from others, separate from you and the family, different, is noticing things about how different families and people do different things,  now is the time to start.

I have an almost nine-year old, and I am trying to formulate some thoughts in my head as to how to create responsibility for my child that is bigger than her, how to keep time together,how to keep  communication open, and how to best answer her questions about life.    I am thinking hard.  I have four years until the teenaged years, and this time is precious to me.  Is it to you?

It is NOT enough to just talk about drugs and alcohol and sex.  Yes, those conversations have to be there and they have to keep going throughout these years.  But, there has to be ACTION.   How will you help your child/teen structure their time, their environment, so these behaviors are less likely to occur?  What are the top three things in your house that your child KNOWS is not negotiable?  What freedoms can you give, but also what RESPONSBILITIES go with these freedoms?  WHAT does your child have to look up to , to participate in, to take care of, that is bigger than himself or herself? 

What community OUTSIDE the family is your child involved in and accepted in – is it one that you have helped create or one that just happened along the way?  I am sure both can be okay, but it is important to know what is going on in that community.  For example, how well do you know your child’s friends?  Judy Arnall brings up the point of creating a “secondary community” away from the school environment if your child is in school – through church or other religious outlets, through Girl Scouts or Boy Scouts, through volunteering .   There HAS to be something bigger than themselves for these children.

Would love to hear your thoughts!

Many blessings,

Carrie