Is Parenting The Eleven to Twelve Year Old Stressful?

There was an article in July that I wrote about in the post “Blossoming” .  The article basically stated that mothers were actually MOST depressed during the “tween” years when children were ages 11-12. I summarized the article in part, saying:

“… mothers of tweens (ages 11-12)  are the most depressed group of parents as their children go through physical and emotional changes, trying to separate by pushing boundaries, and how marital satisfaction is at its lowest for women (and how often these changes for children come in the midst of when we are changing the most in adult development as  well).  The linked article also mentions the exhaustion from driving and the children’s activities. “

There was another article recently going around Facebook on this topic, which brought it up again for me,  but I can’t find the link to the article anymore.  At any rate, it made me think about this topic again as I have both a 15 year old and a 12 year old, and it is easier to see the differences in these ages when you have both in your home!

I think this stage can be beautiful, although many mothers have written to me and spoken with me and have found that having a child ages 11-12 or so is very difficult. They find themselves with a child who is constantly pushing boundaries, who is distant, who wants to be with friends, who rolls their eyes at “baby-ish” things, who doesn’t seem respectful.  In my experience, most of the mothers who are having a hard time are having it with girls.  I rarely hear from mothers of boys of this age with these kinds of challenges ( but I hear from them when their boys are 13-14 years old!)

My thoughts are to consider that an 11-12 year old, whilst most certainly changing, is not at all the same developmentally as a teenager who is 15 or 16 or older. Every child develops at a different rate, but it seems to me that most developmental changes accelerates around the 15 and a half/16 year change onward, and there are baby steps at 12 and 14 in this developmental process.  This is written about rather extensively in the literature of Waldorf Education.

So, if this is the case, it may be that whilst the body is changing rapidly, the neurobiology of the brain is not changing that rapidly yet. Soley based in neuroscience, the brain changes the most between the ages of 13 and 17.  Neuronal sprouting and pruning of neurons does begin around age 11 in girls and age 12 in boys, but the majority of changes are still ahead.  The second to last paragraph in this interview even talks about the differences between 13 and 15 year old brains, and there is a dramatic difference.

So I feel some of the difficulties do not lie in biology, but in culture, and in how we often treat “tweens” like teens and how some tweens want to do things that used to be associated with the teenaged years.   Everything is more accelerated.  So, eleven to twelve year old girls now are often thinking about peers, boyfriends, makeup, navigating schedules of study and extra activities that would often put an adult to shame, and either  are fighting against boundaries or the opposite – living in a household where there are very few boundaries at all. (FYI, teachers write to complain to me more about the latter). This is at a time when I feel personally, that children should still be in the height of playing outside, riding bikes, being immersed in the life of the family.

Of course every child is different.  Sometimes what often happens here besides the acceleration of culture,  is how  the individual personality and interests of the child  meshes with the culture of the family.  Some children are just more intense than others or react to different stages of development different than other children.  It happens, and it is okay.  Honoring our children is important!

When I am struggling with one of my own children in this age range,  I ask myself these questions, and  I often ask these questions of parents who email me or call me as well:

  • What is your rhythm?  Children this age still need a strong  rhythm with rest and sleep and downtime.  Sleep is critical to the brain and development.
  • Does the child  have a schedule that is overloaded outside of the home? If things are not going well within the family, they may actually need more time within the family rather than less.
  • What are your boundaries?  Are they consistent? Listening is super important, as is guiding, but boundaries are also important,  especially around the issues of peers and media. Children of this age really do need to know the rules of the family, and this helps guide them.  Some children need help not accelerating into more teenaged type things, because they really don’t have the maturity to handle it at only 11 or 12 years old. Sometimes on this topic,  I ask myself, “What does my child need to hear from me?”  (and sometimes what they need to hear is different than what I really want to say! LOL)
  • The age of eleven to twelve should still be the heart of play, even though it is not appearing popular that 11 and 12 years should still  be playing with dolls or wooden figures or whatever. I would encourage parents to keep toys accessible if a child of this age says to “get rid” of whatever toys have been their favorite but are now considered somewhat “babyish”.  They may want these toys at a later date, so keeping them up but still reachable can help.  Encourage time to just be.
  • Physical activity is extremely important.  Park dates, kayaking dates, hiking dates, climbing dates, chances for skiing and skating and more are so important. Some 11 to 12 year olds really need a push.
  • What responsibility does your 11-12 year old have in the home?  This needs to be a priority.  The home priorities need to be fulfilled before the outside the home priorities.
  • What is going on with media?  I feel many 11-12 year olds have WAY too much technology access with too little boundaries.  Technology does affect the brain, and it can be addictive.  Some children seem more prone to this than others.  Why approach this with no boundaries?   I still personally feel 14 is a better age to introduce technology, and to introduce it within the context of work for classes rather than a diversion to play on.
  • Encourage and open areas of interest within maturity level and interest.  Many 11 to 12 year olds seem to be interested in things outside their home; although some are not.  If there is interest in multiple things as some children have, you may have to limit activities in order to not overschedule.  It is okay to have only one activity a semester, especially for a child this age.  They are not in high school yet!
  • Encourage time with the family.  Peer time can and should be limited for this age.  Children of this age may want to be with their peers a lot, but the true concern for friends outside of the family and some separation from the family is more appropriate around the ages of 16-18, which is a natural progression toward impending adulthood. An 11 or 12 year old is not yet 16, nor are they 18.  I think this is an area where boundaries, again, are appropriate.  Also, if your child is using technology to contact friends that may also need to be monitored carefully.
  • This is really important:  what do you do outside of your children?  Where is your community and support?  How many things do you do without your children, if this is important to you?  As your children get older,  it is important to develop interests and friends independent of your child.   This is imperative for many mothers in order to stave off depression.
  • I always ask myself, is this really about me?  Part of this encourages me to see things more neutrally, as in not everything a child does is  specifically or personally  against me, but encourages me to look and see – is it our personalities clashing over an issue?  Is it really just me ?  What can mitigate this conflict?
  • What can I do to increase that connectedness between us?  It may be they need one on one time with me, they may need me to put my foot down on a boundary and be secretely relieved when I do, they may need space to just be.  Every child and family is different!
  • Lastly, if you are married, work on your marriage.  Have a date night. Enjoy each other and re-discover why you were attracted to your spouse in the beginning.   No home is perfect, no marriage is perfect, but working on a relationship with your significant other if you have one, brings stability to a child going through changes who needs you to hold the line for a few more years until separation and a true adolescence begins.

Keeping  in mind that your 11 and 12 year old are actually more little than big can be a help in relieving parental stress during these years, with the knowing expectation that changes are coming at the 16 year old change.

I would love to hear your experiences.   Please comment below, and also feel free to email me at admin@theparentingpassageway.com.

Blessings and love,
Carrie

 

Not So Summer Reading: Set Free Childhood

The wonderful book, “Set Free Childhood” by Martin Large, focuses on the questions and controversies of media and childhood. Our last post, from Chapters 4 and 5, focused on the actual physical hazards of screens – mainly the effects on the brain and the senses.  Chapter 6 focuses on the social hazards of screens, including addiction, children’s play, advertising, anti-social behavior, cognitive and learning impacts.

The first thing this chapter points out is that time with screens means less time engaging with parents and less real conversation. Screens can lead to isolation within the family under the same roof, because everyone is in a different place on a different device.  It can also have an impact upon cognitive and learning because it impedes sleep.  An article from the Daily Telegraph from 2002 points out that “spending just five hours in front of a computer can hugely increase the risk of depression and insomnia.”  There is a fairly recent study from 2015 that details for adults, excessive computer usage during leisure hours leads to sleeping difficulties (but did not find a connection between using a computer for work and sleep challenges). Another 2015 study with 9,846 participants focused on adolescents in three age cohorts from the ages 16-19 .  The findings were similar in that increased screen usage was related to sleep difficulties.  This chapter mentions that after TV is viewed, viewers found it harder to concentrate after viewing, and their moods were the same or worse then before the TV watching took place.  The effects of video games are mentioned in a separate box on page 100.

The main issue with screens from a social standpoint is that play is being underminded and children are actually play-deprived.  Teachers have found “heavy viewers to be less imaginative and less dramatic in their play, show less initiative, are more likely to expect to be entertained, can pay less attention to stories, sometimes lack coordination, and do not play so constructively as light or non-viewing children.” (page 102).   The rest of this chapter reviews turning children into consumers, and anti-social behavior.

Chapter 7 looks at how screens affect language and literacy. Children can suffer delayed language due to lack of speaking with parents.  This chapter talks about how children learn to speak through imitation, listening and conversing with real people and about the consequences of choosing screens over regularly reading time.

Blessings,
Carrie

Vitality 2: Slow Sunday

“…children, since they are an inalienable part of nature, not only have the right to a healthy environment, but also to connection with nature and to the gifts of nature for their physical and psychological health and ability to learn and create.” – The World Congress of the International Union for the Conservation of Nature, 2012

Since my word of the year is “vitality,” every Sunday I hope to share something with you all that makes me feel vital, sparkly, happy, and alive from different aspects of my life.  It isn’t about having a perfect life. It is about growing in wholeness and authenticity and living in joy, no matter what crosses our paths.

This has been a beautiful January.  The weather today isn’t supposed to get above 26 degrees, which is cold for the Deep South, but it is sunny outside.  The little bit of icy snow we got crunches under my feet as I walk and see the ice that has formed on the branches of the bare trees.  It is quiet, and not many are even on the roads.  I love this peaceful time.

Which brings me to my vitality wish for this week:  to gather in the sunshine and glorious natural beauty of the landscape and get outside.  I do this frequently, but I always try to keep it at the top of my priority list.  Whether it is just a little walk in my neighborhood or to our nearby park or a hike up a mountain, or kayaking in the lake , or star-watching, I try to enjoy each and every season.

I love my children to be outside as well, and find this especially important for older teens.  Getting outside helps “re-set” their minds and bodies for the things that are trying to accomplish; it shows teens the value of fun that is not tied into electronic devices or screens; it provides spectacular moments of awe and wonder.  It revitalizes the soul.

The benefits of nature are immense. There is a wonderful book called “Vitamin N: The Essential Guide to a Nature-Rich Life,” by Richard Louv.  Louv, of course, was a pioneer in recognizing the benefits of nature for children as detailed in his book, “Last Child In The Woods:  Saving Our Children from Nature-Deficit Disorder.”  In the introduction to the book “Vitamin N, ” Louv details some of the best benefits of immersion in nature:  reduction of the symptoms of AD/HD; helps buffer anxiety and depression; helps prevent or reduce obesity and mypoia; boosts the immune system; may improve social bonding and reduce social violence; stimulates learning and creativity; even helps to raise standardized test scores.    You can see the myriad of benefits at the Children and Nature Network’s research links.

This year, I invite you to hold steady in getting yourself and your children outside, preferably daily, and also weekly for excursions in your local, state, and national parks.   Enjoy, and savor the wonder of our beautiful world.

Blessings,
Carrie

A Sweet Epiphany Celebration

And down from all the stars

Streams blessings like wondrous rain

So that all our weary powers

Grow newly fresh again.

And out of obscure dark

The Lord comes into view

To knit torn threads together

And all of life renew

-Friedrich Hebbel, found in the book “Celebrating Festivals With Children” by Freya Jaffke

Epiphany is coming on Friday!  For those of you new to celebrating the Twelve Days of Christmas, which culminates in Epiphany and the end of Christmastide and the beginning of the season of Epiphany, this day can be a sweet and simple celebration of light.  There is a quote from St. Theophan the Recluse that makes me think of this day:  “All the Christian mysteries shine here with their Divine light and enlighten the minds and hearts of those who with faith celebrate this great festival.”

First of all, we can set the mood by changing our nature table to a blue backdrop to make a landscape of kings.  Perhaps a small house can be formed with rounded wood and a yellow veil, eight pointed stars and Mother Mary with her child upright on her lap. Some Waldorf Education sources recommend that Mother Mary receive a golden crown. The Kings approach a little closer each day and then slowly make their way home again after Epiphany. On Epiphany, the children may find twelve small candles burning on the morning of Epiphany.   During the last day of January, Mary and Joseph and Jesus can make their way into Egypt.

In the Western Church, Epiphanytide extends from now until Shrove Tuesday (the day before Ash Wednesday). Epiphany means “manifestation” , although I have also heard it translated as “to shine above” or “to shine over”.  The many facets of Epiphany show the ways that the Son of God is manifested to Jewish and Gentile alike.  The first part of tradition concerns the Three Kings, and the second part of tradition concerns the Baptism of Our Lord some thirty years later.  Some other explorations include the transformation of the water into wine at Cana and the Tranfiguration.

Tradition dictates that there were Three Kings, apparently derived from the three gifts they wrought:  gold, frankincense, and myrrh. These gifts pointed to the mystical gifts of the Son of God.  Over time, the Three Kings acquired names:  Caspar (or Jasper or Gaspard), Melchoir, and Balthazar.  Melchoir, the king in red, offer gold as a symbol of wisdom; Bathazar, the king in blue offers frankincense as a symbol of piety, and Caspar, in green, offers myrrh as a symbol of healing forces and vitality.

The feasting often begins on Twelfth Night, the night before Epiphany, and Epiphany, like Christmas, usually includes gift-giving. In some countries, Epiphany, not Christmas, is the main gift-giving holiday.

When the Wise Men come to visit Christ, they find him not in the manger where he was born, but at his house.  So, there is often a focus on blessing the home at Epiphany.  Some will see door jams marked in chalk with 20+C+M+B+17 and sprinkled with Holy Water and blessed by a priest.

The feasting usually involves a King’s Cake with a bean placed inside. The person receiving the bean either becomes the Queen or King for a day, (or may be the person who has to host the Candlemas party!).  Here are a few recipes for this special day.  I think this year we will actually be making rice pudding with a bean in it.  Of course, in Latin America and Spain, a King’s Ring with a figurine of the infant Jesus inside is most customary.  In those countries, children write letters to the Three Kings and leave their shoes out in anticipation of a gift. In Waldorf Kindergartens, sometimes star cookies are baked.

The Baptism of our Lord leads to the blessing of the water in church.  In the Orthodox Church, bodies of water are blessed. I have some beautiful pictures of the Orthodox Theophany on my Epiphany Pinterest page.  Most of all, the inner aspect of this festival stirs me. What am I manifesting in my life?  What is still hidden inside and can be revealed?  At the Baptism, the triune nature of God is revealed, and I can wonder how I can be faithful this year.

Possible stories for this Feast include:

  • The Biblical Accounts
  • The Story of Baboushka, found in “Festivals, Family, and Food” and in many picture books
  • An Epiphany Story of the Tree, found in “Festivals, Family, and Food”

Many blessings to you on this special Feast,

Carrie

Celebrating January

I just love January.  It has such a cozy feeling of candlelight, warm sweaters, a fire going, warm foods, books and handwork and board games.  This is one of my favorite months!

This month, in our family,  we are celebrating:

The Twelve Days of Christmas, January 1- January 5

Epiphany on January 6.  Are you getting ready yet?  Here are some suggestions for fun things to do with your children.

Martin Luther King Jr. Day – January 16

The Week of Prayer for Christian Unity– January 18-25

This is the month of Feast Days for many Saints and Holy People, so I am thinking we may do some read alouds around the biographies of some of the famous Saints and missionaries.

All month long we will also be celebrating King Winter, Jack Frost, and animals in winter in art, song, and nature walks.  I hope to share a bit more of that with you all this month!

Things to love this month:

The January Book Box

Warming Meals

Fun things to do with children:

Cut out paper snowflakes, including really cool 3-D snowflakes; dip candles; roll candles; play board games or card games with your children;  draw, paint, model; whittle wood; make popcorn together; bake together; play in the snow – build snow forts; have snowball fights; snowshoe; downhill or cross country ski;  ice skate on a pond; read and tell stories; build forts inside; take a walk outside in the cold – look for animal tracks or berries or birds or all of the above; knit, crochet, cross stitch, finger knit, spin, sew; sing and make music together – learn some new songs; clean, scrub, dust, work around the house – rearrange furniture; go bowling or find an indoor swimming pool to swim in; write letters to family and friends; write stories together; snuggle on the coach with hot chocolate and marshmellows; cook for a neighbor; find a place of worship to attend and get involved; throw a party; clicker train your dog, cat, or other animal; take care of plants; start seeds indoors when it it is time

Get Your Rhythm Together:

Sometimes we just need a change of pace in January and we need a different rhythm than what we had before the holidays.  We can often start with the basics, such as rest and sleep times, meals, and times to be outside and then add in our task of the day, our household chores, our errand day, and if we are homeschooling, our homeschooling time.  Right now, my intention for January with a 9th, 6th and 1st grader is to have our  artistic rhythm look like this: Mondays baking and painting, Tuesdays coloring/drawing  in the afternoons,  Wednesdays modeling, Thursdays painting, and Fridays seasonal crafts/handwork.  All of us can work on projects with our first grader or our own projects and it feels nice and unhurried in an otherwise sea of main lessons for three children.  I have a household rhythm as well for each day of the week.  I would love to hear your rhythm for your home and family!

Get Your Homeschooling Together:

This is the month I am going to get together a few friends to read some of Steiner’s lectures on education.  If you are homeschooling a certain way, maybe you can all get together and discuss possible plans for fall homeschooling and bounce ideas off each other.  Maybe you can hold a tea and invite those interested in homeschooling to come.   Sometimes January is a good, quiet month to begin laying out the next school year as well.

Get Your Self-Care Together:

As part of my vitality practices, this year, I have pledged myself to daily prayer and gratitude and to exercise a certain number of days per month.  My husband and I are planning some date nights, and I am planning some outings with friends.  It promises to be a fun month!

I can’t wait to hear what you are up to!

Blessings,

Carrie

 

 

Vitality: Slow Sunday

Orchard Trees, January by Richard Wilbur

It’s not the case, though some might wish it so
Who from a window watch the blizzard blow

White riot through their branches vague and stark,
That they keep snug beneath their pelted bark.

They take affliction in until it jells
To crystal ice between their frozen cells,

And each of them is inwardly a vault
Of jewels rigorous and free of fault,

Unglimpsed until in May it gently bears
A sudden crop of green-pronged solitaires.

 

I love this poem for January as it talks about taking affliction and making it the seed of something beautiful to grow.  Since my word of the year is “vitality,” every Sunday I hope to share with you all something that makes me feel vital, sparkly, happy, and alive from different aspects of my life.  It isn’t about having a perfect life. It is about growing in wholeness and authenticity and living in joy, no matter what crosses our paths.

Today is January first, the beautiful beginnings of a  New Year of possibilities.  I just love that feeling, and this is one of my favorite times of the year.  I love the open spaces and bright thoughts.  Some people, however, don’t.  The possibilities are too endless and almost paralyzing at times.  I think this happens a lot, perhaps more than we care to admit in this age of “perfect moments” captured and documented on blogs, Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat. It is easy to feel that everyone has it together except you and your family.

This is a complete and total lie.

No one has it all together!  And sorting through the “best” choices for how to do things in our own families can be difficult or feel like a bunch of “we should…” (which isn’t always matched to our own values!)

However, over the years, I have observed that the most together people and families I know have a few things going for them.  The main one is that they have a positive attitude.  Having a positive attitude brings me joy!  Sharing gratitude for life with my family brings me joy. I want my children to know that a positive attitude doesn’t mean ignoring the negative, but it does mean looking at things in a constructive way.

So, today’s Slow Sunday is fostering a positive attitude and gratitude.  Many families take today to make a Gratitude Jar for the year, which is lovely.  It doesn’t have to be a super fancy jar, and it doesn’t have to be super fancy paper – although that might be joyous for you to have a decorated jar for your counter.  Every day, maybe at dinner time or before bed, ask the members of your family to write their happiest moment of the day down and place it in the jar.  At the end of the year, you will have a jar of beautiful happy memories!  If you did a Gratitude Jar this year and you would like to share a picture of what yours looked like, please post a picture in the comments.

Some other ways to a positive attitude and gratitude that I am thinking about specifically this week:

Start the day with a lovely breakfast, including a blessing. It is so much better to start the day in a positive manner full of thankfulness rather than – “I am late!” “I hate mornings!”    I will be sharing mealtime blessings next week, but in the meantime finding a beautiful candle for your table or a little seasonal tray that you can add natural treasures to can be an easy way to start the day on a positive note.  I have a small  Pinterest board devoted to beautiful mornings.  This week I plan on adding things to this board, so it should grow this week!

Keeping a journal each day of gratitude, of the blessed ordinary moments, can be a positive attitude booster.

Having a spiritual practice is uplifting and leads to positive thoughts.  I use prayer (I am Episcopalian, so The Book of Common Prayer is what we use daily and in liturgy.  If you want to see how to use this book, I suggest the book Inwardly Digest: The Prayer Book As A Guide To Spiritual Life ).  I also use meditation, and affirmations.  I find affirmations especially helpful in stopping negative self-talk.   I think all of these things have a place in creating a positive attitude.

Exercise and physical activity out in nature. Most of you who read this blog know all the reasons why “Vitamin N” is so vital to being positive.  Our bodies were meant to move and be outside.  This is so important, for all children, but especially for those children ages 12 and up, which is typically when being more sedentary sets in (especially for many girls).  I am convinced that many teens would feel better if they moved more!

Please share with me ways you love to increase your positive attitude and gratitude.

Blessings and love,
Carrie

 

 

 

2017 New Year’s Message

Bright. Shiny. Fun. Full of promise.

I just love a new year; like that new calendar with spaces waiting to be filled up (or not) and new ideas for how I want to improve myself and my life, the new year stretches out before me with its immense possibilities.

Every year, I choose a word that embodies what I hope the year to be and what I hope to focus on. It sets a focus for the entire year.  You can read a wonderful post about that by Sheila over at Sure As The World from 2013 and 2016.  My word this year will be “vitality”.  I am  thinking specifically of  self-care strategies that lead toward feeling vitality.  “Self care”, by definition, is self-initiated, deliberate, and under my control.  I want to use these strategies to create and live a life of vitality, of sparkle, of vigor.  And that begins wih me, and a focus on the things that give me wellness.

I also choose a method to write down the priorities that are largest and looming in my mind; last year I chose concentric circles (you can read about this here); this year I actually am drawing a tree with beautiful branches and placing my greatest priorities and hopes and values for 2017 on these branches.  I got these beautiful metallic watercolors in my Sketchbox this month (my husband ordered this for me for my Christmas gift and I am so happy with it – you can see more about it at SketchBox).  I usually hang this above my desk so I can see it and love it all year.  I also use a passion type planner, and create vision boards.  All of these things keep my priorities at the forefront of my heart and mind.  So, plenty of fun projects to do for this upcoming year!

For New Year’s Eve, we plan to spend a quiet evening at home with our children.  I would like to have a fun way to draw a board game for each hour that we are awake, lovely finger foods and bubbly drinks, and  cinnamon buns for New Year’s Day.  We usually spend New Year’s doing something that we love as a family.  Traditionally it is hiking and being outside in sunshine and fresh air, so we are thinking along those lines again.

My wish for you, dear reader, in  this bright and shiny new year, is to find and embrace joy in your lovely life; to find courage to be authentic in your personal life and in your parenting; to find connection, warmth, and love this year.

May 2017 be blessed.

In Joy,

Carrie