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?