Nurturing Parenting: The 12-14 Year Old

One interesting thing that Waldorf Schools typically do in sixth grade (at least in the United States) is to have the students make dolls.  These are  not put together the way a professional dollmaker would put a doll together,  but more from an organic process that almost follows the development of the embryo itself and forshadows the physical development of the human being as it comes to life.  From loving nothingness to a small tightly wrapped ball (the head), expanding into the universe as a defined trunk  then with limbs taking shape (arms with a thumb and legs with feet)  and finally  a little being with twinkling eyes,  beautiful hair and clothes.

This fulllness of the human being is then echoed in seventh grade physiology, in eighth grade studies of reproduction, and in tenth grade in the studies of embryology.  This beautiful expanse of the human being is coming at a time of intense fragility of the 12-14 year old.

It is easy to think that once one is through the nine/ten-year-change, that the floodgates open wide. I have discussed some of these issues before in a series on portals.  And yet, there is still a twelve-year-old change to follow, and a fifteen/sixteen year change, which to me may be the most dramatic of them all.

Much like the toddler stage of life, young people of this age need protection at this time.  This is the time of the middle school grades in the United States, and often noted to be a very difficult time due to differences in physiological development, peer cliques, and I believe that the use of social media has compounded these issues. Being rather stuck between wanting to be more adult-like but also have the freedoms of childhood is difficult for the child, but also for the parent!

There is a certain fragility and uncertainty in these years that are like no other. Balancing the freedoms often provided to these group and the structure is a navigational process. I believe this age group needs protection from their limitless energy and wanting to do too much.  The limits of this age group in doing activities has essentially been eliminated. In the past, one might start playing sports in middle school (and you didn’t get much play until 8th grade) or doing more than one activity in high school. Now children in middle school have been playing sports for years and doing many activities.  They need help setting guidelines for sleeping, healthy eating, and more, and helping in meeting those guidelines even when they would rather stay up extraordinarily late or eat only sugary snack food.

So, in parenting this age group, please consider limits.  Children of 12-14 should not be treated like an older teenager with all the fun and none of the responsibilities.  While there is a campaign to“Wait Until 8th” for a smartphone , many twelve to fourteen year olds are navigating social media sites and media usage.  Media should not be limit-free for this age group!  Sending nude pictures, sexting, and using social media and texts in order to bully  a peer is sadly not uncommon in this age group because again, many of the children this age have no limits in terms of hours on their devices, and parents are not checking phones and computers.  One way to think about setting limits on media is to use a device like a Disney Circle; you can see a review from 2015 here; I believe now certain sites can be more easily blocked than what this review has stated.  Some parents have no idea what their child is doing on line or that they have multiple used profiles on Instagram or are on Snapchat or other sites. Devices such as these can trail usage across multiple devices.

Children of this age may need help being active in a free and easy way.  Many children this age like to “hang out” but the days of 12  and 13 year olds zooming bikes around a neighborhood or playing pick up games may not happen as much in the past.  How can this child be active without or in addition to an organized sport?  This typically requires free time that has no agenda. Having time to just be protects children and gives them space in this fragile state where they are emerging and trying to hear their own voice and may even give them time to connect with you, the parent.  You are still more important than peers at this age. In fact, I think the ages leading up to the fifteen/sixteen year changes may be one of the times you have the greatest influence.  So don’t give up! 

Lastly, help your child not to be a terrible human being with peers.  No, we can’t police everything, and yes, perhaps we were not policed in our peer relationships at this age in the past, and yes, friendships come and go in the middle school years as middle schoolers try to find their own voice and where they belong.  However, I think because so much of the free group play of the early years and early grades has been lost and replaced by adult-led, structured activities, children this age are coming into the more socially difficult middle school years with even less social abilities than in previous generations.  Help your child to learn what a loyal friendship looks like; is that friend really a friend or not; what bullying and toxic behavior looks like, talk to them about peer pressure in the areas of drugs and alcohol and sexuality.

Provide areas where children MUST show responsbility, whether that is nurturing the home, helping to care for a younger sibling, help with elders in the family, run a tiny business from the home.  Too many of the children this age have many toys and a run of what they want to do with no limits, but yet have no responsibility outside of themselves in terms of contributing to the family.

Most of all, just love them.  These years bring many changes in development in all areas being human.  Remember that this age is not 17 or 18 though, and as opposed to guiding an older teenagers with check-ins, they may need more parenting and limits than an older age group.  Being involved in this fragile, almost back to toddlerhood stage of needing protection is how it should be. It is a fine line between hovering and meddlesome and being helpful; boundaries are key to navigating this.  If you need help, I highly suggest you make friends with parents who have older children that you admire.  It can be helpful to hear what worked really well at this age, especially in those older teenagers that might have a similar personality to your younger child.

Blessings,

Carrie

 

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Life Skills For Seventh and Eighth Graders

I think both as parents and homeschoolers, we are always working on “life skills”.  After all, it is the goal of most parents that their children are able to live independently and know how to maintain a house, take care of their own finances, and be able to care for a home or a family!

I made a list of life skills for seventh grade through high school, and I keep adding things to it , as I go along so this is not an all-inclusive list.  Please feel free to use it as a base for your own list and modify and add it to it so it reflects the things that are important in your family. 

AUTO SKILLS:  (more high school)

  • Auto care (change the oil, jump the battery, replace fluids, change oil and filter, change a flat)
  • How to drive a car; defensive driving and the dangers of driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs
  • How to buy a good used car
  • How to look for and deal with auto insurance, what to do in case of an accident

PRACTICAL SKILLS:  (seventh grade and up)

  • Carpentry and woodworking
  • Knife skills (whittling and carving),
  • Mending holes/hemming pants/sewing buttons,
  • Replace a bike tire and do basic bike maintenance and repair
  • How to vote
  • How to take good notes from a lecture or sermon
  • Packing a suitcase for a trip independently
  • How to tie a neck tie and bow tie
  • Manners/fine dining – how to introduce people and start a conversation
  • How to organize and host a party without help
  • Phone etiquette (ordering, returning, asking for info, answering)
  • Self defense
  • How to knit, crochet, cross stitch, hand sew and machine sew; how to make patterns
  • First aid and CPR, basic herbal and natural remedies for common ailments; how to put together a “natural” medicine toolbox, the role of allopathic health care and how to access it; how to deal with medical bills and insurance
  • How to dance  – whether that is square dancing or line dancing or formal ballroom dancing is up to you!
  • Homesteading skills, care of livestock, hunting or fishing skills might also come here if you do that in your family life
  • Buying a house, homeowner’s insurance, buying versus renting
  • Pet Care – care of puppies or kittens, how to dialogue with a vet, healthy feeding and exercise, housebreaking, positive clicker training,  typical health and behavioral  problems and how to help, lifespan of a pet, making end of life decisions for your pet

Home Skills: (all ages)

  • How to “deep clean” a house from top to bottom
  • How to maintain a home during the week
  • Air conditioning/heating and plumbing basic trouble shooting
  • How to paint rooms
  • How to unclog a sink or tub drain
  • How to can/freeze/dry/ferment food
  • How to write a list and follow it at the grocery store; menu planning
  • How to do laundry from start to finish, ironing
  • How to organize a house
  • How to prepare a variety of healthy meals from scratch
  • Basic fix-it skills and troubleshooting for the home

JOB SKILLS:

  • How to write a resume
  • Typing and computer skills
  • Job interview skills
  • How to build and work with a team
  • How to work with difficult people
  • How to resolve conflict
  • Effective communication skills; difference between communication and conversation
  • Picking a career that is right for you – Myers Briggs testing or other personality trait testing, how aptitudes and strengths can play into a good career choice

FINANCIAL SKILLS:

  • How to apply for a mortgage, steps of buying a house
  • How to write a check and balance a check book, how to manage on line banking
  • Budgeting/money management
  • How to invest and save for retirement
  • How to understand parts of a paystub

CHILD CARE:

  • Basic infant development, basic principles of baby care – pregnancy, birth, breastfeeding, sleep rhythms, baby wearing, gentle discipline, how to bathe, how and when to start solids, value of rhythm and outside time, warmth, normal attachment and what contributes to family-infant attachment, microflora in the gut and how to cultivate that in the most healthy manner 
  • Normal stages of development  ages 0-5, how to identify challenges
  • How to talk to your infant’s health care team

RELATIONSHIPS

  • Essentials of self-respect and self-love, which is a foundational skill to bring to relationships
  • Differences between assertive, passive and aggressive behavior and communication
  • Discussions on dating violence; affects of verbal abuse
  • Effective communication skills
  • Take your own Myers Briggs test and how to use this information in relationships
  • How to resolve conflict
  • What to look for in choosing a person to share your life with, what factors help make a successful partnership, how to nurture a partnership or marriage

Skills for Personal Health:

  • Finding types of exercise that can be done throughout a lifetime
  • Addiction issues; addiction myths
  • Healthy sexuality
  • Use of alternative methods for health (herbal, homeopathic, healing foods)
  • Sleeping  – its importance, health sleep habits
  • Positivity; dealing with baby blues, depression, anxiety
  • How to deal with stress in a healthy way
  • Physical health issues specific to gender

I am certain there are many other things you can put on this list or that you can create your own categories.  I have a category for Christian Life as well if any of my Christian readers are interested.

I will list some specific resources we used in seventh grade and that we are using this year in the next post.

  Blessings,

Carrie

Why We Homeschool The Middle School Years

 

I can only talk about our own personal journey regarding homeschooling.  This is an individual walk, and I can only give my experience.  Once people “get over” the hurdle and accept homeschooling as a viable option for the younger years and even the early grades, I agree that I  often hear “well, I plan to homeschool until middle school” or “I plan to homeschool until high school”.    Many homeschooling parents, at least in the Waldorf community, have told me they feel not only is there a huge decline in folks homeschooling this age group of children,  but that also the number of resources drops off dramatically.  It can be a hard and isolating road.

One of my Dutch friends was explaining to me the other day that in the Netherlands they say those ages are “being between the napkin and the tablecloth”.  You are not a child, yet not an adult.  You are  not really treated as an adult, but you don’t really feel like a child.I

Something that is well accepted in developmental circles is the fragility of the budding self that occurs around the age of 12 and 13.    Bodies start changing, voices start changing in boys, limbs are long and heavy.  And there is this beautiful and vibrant fragility I see in the teenagers ages 13 and 14 that I get the pleasure of being with.  They are finding themselves and their own passions and their own opinions.   To me, it is almost like a butterfly struggling to come out of its cocoon.    The Gesell Institute writes about the  needs for privacy often seen in a thirteen-year old:   “by withdrawing and refusing to share, Thirteen protects something far too fragile and half formed for others to see, his budding personality.”

So, I think there are two sides to this. In American society at least, I think the idea of the sullen, withdrawn teenager has gone much too far.  Space is important, but it must have a balance of space within the community.  And to our family, the most important thing for this period for their overall education  is for our children to be with  family as their community and with the well-trusted adults and friends they have developed.  Eugene Schwartz recently gave an interesting lecture Continue reading