You’ve probably read up on child development stages during your child’s early years, but what about when they start growing up?
Child development milestones can still be relevant as the candles on your child’s birthday cake multiply, all the way through their adolescence. Between the ages of six and 12 a lot of changes take place in a child’s life, so it makes sense to arm yourself with a knowledge of what to expect.
As with all child development expectations, all ages are approximate, and there’s no need to worry if your child appears to be moving through them at a slightly different pace. However, if the speed of your child’s development becomes a cause for concern, it’s advisable to speak to your doctor about possible causes and options.
Child development stages: Ages six to eight
Between the ages six to eight you will notice that your child becomes noticeably more independent. At the same time they like to know where they stand – and respond well to simple, clear guidelines that apply to everyone in the house.
‘At this age, fairness is a big issue for children,’ says Dr Claire Halsey, Consultant Clinical Psychologist. ‘Your child wants everything to be equal in the family, from the portion size of their pudding to taking their turn of reading a bedtime story with dad. From a parents point of view it’s impossible to be totally fair all the time, simply trying to be even handed is worth aiming for.’
By the age of eight many children already have a few of their adult teeth. It’s vital to get your child into the habit of brushing twice a day – and make sure that they are doing it properly. Many children, particularly girls, develop ‘puppy fat’ at the age of seven or eight, which is usually nothing to worry about. Some children also begin the process of puberty earlier than others, so you may notice girls as young as eight beginning to develop breasts and hips.
Most children’s speech is clear by the age of six, and they will probably start asking you about the meanings of different words. Between the ages of seven and eight, their vocabulary will double – and they will often copy what you say. Expect to hear your child saying, ‘My mummy/daddy says?’ when talking to friends – and don’t say anything in front of your child that you wouldn’t want them to repeat!
Around the age of six you may find that your child starts to argue with you, which can be hurtful and upsetting. Try not to take any angry comments personally and remember that is a normal part of development. By the age of seven, your child may begin to show embarrassment. As a result, they may want more privacy when bathing and getting dressed and will sometimes be embarrassed by your behaviour, particularly in front of their friends.
At the age of six, children will be beginning to get to grips with numbers and might be able to do some addition and subtraction, and even basic multiplication, by the time they are seven. Most children are confident readers by the age of seven and by the age of eight, most children’s handwriting improves to the point that they may start to learn joined up writing, and may begin writing with ink pens at school.
By the age of six, friendships are very important to your child. Most children prefer to play in same sex groups, where girls tend to spend their time with one or two best friends, while boys prefer to be part of a large group. It’s normal for children to fall out with their friends, usually over something trivial. In most cases they make up quickly, but your child will be very sensitive to criticism and rejection as it’s very important to feel like they belong.
At the age of seven, your child may have their first school tests as part of the National Curriculum. This makes some children very anxious, so make it clear that you only expect them to do their best, and don’t put them under pressure to be top of the class.
How to help
Most parents struggle with the idea of letting a child of this age do things without supervision, but bear in mind that your child will probably be desperate for a taste of freedom. Depending on your child’s maturity and the area where you live, consider letting your child run an errand to a local shop or walk to a neighbouring friend’s house by themselves as this will help to boost their confidence and satisfy their urge to feel more grown up.
Child development stages: Ages nine to 12
Many parents are unprepared for the changes their child will face between the ages of nine to 12. So don’t be surprised if children as young as nine become curious about their bodies and begin puberty. Most children will change schools at the age of 11 or 12, which can be a scary experience as they leave the comfort zone and start to mix with other pupils who are much older – and bigger – than they are.
‘Most children will begin the process of puberty between the ages of nine and 12,’ says Suzie Hayman, author of Teach Yourself Parenting Teenagers. ‘Whether they come to you with questions or not, all children of this age are curious about their changing bodies and sex. So make a point of starting a discussion with them. If you find that embarrassing, then pick up some leaflets or a book about puberty and leave it lying around instead.’
It’s normal for girls to start having periods anywhere between the ages of 10-16, although some girls start even sooner than this. On average, periods start roughly two years after the breasts start developing and pubic hair appears. Girls also go through a growth spurt at this time, and can grow by as much as 10-12cm per year for the next two or three years.
Boys often start puberty slightly later – around the age of 11 – but it can happen as late as 14. However boys can experience wet dreams in the run up to puberty, so it’s wise to explain that this might happen in case your son worries that he has wet the bed. The first sign of puberty in boys is the enlargement of the testes, followed by growth of the penis. Pubic hair appears soon after. Boys usually have their growth spurt between the ages of 12-14, when they will grow at a rate of around 4-6cm per year. For this reason it may take them a while to catch up with girls of the same age.
Children aged nine and over are much more confident speakers, and may begin swearing or using slang in order to fit in with their friends. It’s best not to overreact to this, as they will often continue to do it just to wind you up!
By 12, your child will probably be able to read adult books and magazines. You may also notice that your previously chatty child becomes very quiet around you. This is normal, so don’t criticise or tease your child about their behaviour and try to talk to them about things they are interested in – clothes, sports or TV – as this might be a good way to get conversation flowing.
By the age of 10, children may start to show interest in the opposite sex – and having a boyfriend or a girlfriend becomes one of the best ways to impress their friends. Some children may also have same-sex crushes. This is a normal part of development and doesn’t necessarily mean that they will have choose to have homosexual relationships when they are older.
By the age of 10, your child is likely to have regular homework and may also be busy with school projects. These teach your child how to work independently and improve their problem solving abilities, so although you can offer support and suggestions, it’s best not to offer too much help.
If they are following the National Curriculum, children will also have the second set of statutory tests at the age of 11. Encourage them to set aside time for study and praise their efforts no matter what their results.
Parents often find it difficult to cope with the way that most 11 or 12 year olds prefer to spend time with their friends rather than their family. Bear in mind that at this age it’s very important to fit in, and most children would rather not spend time doing anything that their friends would consider ‘uncool.’ Try to respect your child’s friendships by allowing them to invite a friend along to family gatherings.
Many children start to clash with parents as they approach their teens, and this can be hard for parents to accept. Bear in mind that this is simply your child’s way of expressing their independence and individuality and try not to take it personally.
How to help
Resist the temptation to nag or lecture your child, as this will almost certainly cause an argument. Sometimes you will need to give them more freedom, but remember that in some cases it is best for everyone if you stand your ground.