One of the key markers of this age range is the rise of social interaction. Socialization can vary from fantasy play to advanced social concepts like hierarchies of leadership. Group activities become increasingly enjoyable as children develop cooperative skills (e.g. discussion, negotiation, and compromise). However, these richer social interactions can also lead to more social conflict, ranging from peer pressure to bullying. Peer pressure is particularly influential at this age, as your child depends heavily on gaining the approval of their peers.
Peer pressure can seem unavoidable, but you can help your child by discussing it and staying engaged. Invite their friends over and observe group interactions, reinforcing positive social choices. Role play difficult situations, teaching how to treat others and how to be treated in return. Emphasize that bullying should always be reported to an adult, and be sure to treat others with kindness and respect, exemplifying a strong role model.
Parental approval remains important, but increased intellectual functioning allows children to think for themselves and develop their own opinions. Not only does attention span expand, so does the ability to control it. Children can now identify their own strengths and weaknesses and make decisions to focus their time more productively. Significant cognitive milestones occur at this age. Logic, reasoning, and problem-solving skills become more advanced. This helps with areas of learning, from math skills to a more sophisticated comprehension of time, and a moral foundation. Communication is greatly enhanced as children understand more of the complexities of language, like puns and irony. Creative skills blossom, providing an outlet for your child’s increasingly subtle and complex emotions. Though these emotions may make their mood unstable at times, they also strengthen confidence. Children no longer want to be seen as children, making the perfect time for increasing your child’s responsibilities.
There are two main categories of responsibility: caring about yourself, and caring about others. Promote self-care but also highlight helping others . This can be achieved through activities as diverse as doing household chores or helping others through community involvement. Strengthen your child’s sense of responsibility by letting them choose some of their own goals, letting them complete their own activities, (even if it takes longer than doing it yourself!), and by letting them fix problems they create. Always be conscious of the difference between teaching your child to do something and supporting them while they do it versus doing it for them.