When 10-year-old Arundhati asked her strict and orderly mother what she needed a pencil for, her mother failed to answer this question. Unable to resist, Arundhati asked her again, and again. This article starts and ends with the narration of this incident - one that is commonly seen in houses. We hope that through this article you will discover the transformations and developments that children undergo in middle childhood. So read on, and draw attention to the simple truth of attention, neglect and mental peace of children in middle childhood.
Mother was busy making a list of people to invite for the Ashtami Pooja. “Look at this drawing please”, requests 10 years old Arundhati, after having already annoyed her with questions such as “What are you doing? Why did you ask me for a pencil?”. A flurry of such questions was thrown at Mother in the last 20 minutes alone.
It certainly is amazing how children in the middle childhood age group manage to present everything with the utmost excitement. The bubbling enthusiasm and passion in their voices when they share a story, and their curious questioning eyes are indeed an absolute joy to behold! These children are quick to learn the new transformations that occur in the physical environment surrounding them. They don’t just navigate from preschooler to the adolescence phase, but also undergo constant, overall changes.
Let's see what these changes and developments are.
Physical/ Bodily Developments and Growth:
The body of children between the ages of 6 to 12 years (middle childhood) undergoes several physical changes. It is about the age of 7 that their brain reaches its adult size. However, in middle childhood, the brain is in a constant state of flux, meaning, it undergoes constant changes. It is in this stage that myelination plays an important role in increased conduction of speed and transmission between neuron and cell between the two hemispheres of the brain. Children start losing their primary teeth and generally, by age 12, all of the teeth that they have are permanent ones.
Children show advances in strength and motor coordination, which is often termed as a developmental milestone in this age. Their skills in physical activities such as running, jumping and skipping improves. In addition, their control over gross motor movements becomes refined, meaning, they are able to master where to throw, hop, jump, etc thereby showing improvements in balance, agility, speed and flexibility. For example, in school, a lot of children of the prepubescent age (12 and under) are able to engage in strenuous physical activity - like football, dance, and other outdoor games - for long periods of time, because their physical and bodily developments have improved their lung capacity and muscle strength. All of this in turn allows them to develop an interest in newer activities.
Alternatively, one of the concerns often expressed by parents in this age group is that of childhood obesity. In such cases, increasing a child’s activity level is going to be the most helpful. An increased level of activity is more effective in lowering the weight and improving the child’s health as well as psychological well-being.
Cognitive Development and Changes:
Like physical and motor development, the scale of cognitive development of these children also accelerates. They start viewing the world around them in more structured patterns. Children in the middle childhood phase, undergo an advancement in knowledge and problem-solving skills which in turn enables them to think about and understand the world around them. However, their reasoning isn’t exactly adult-like.
They also experience development in thought processes ways wherein these 6 to 12 years old children become well aware of their feelings. With some improvements in memory capacity, the cognitive development of a child in this age group will advance the way the child thinks, explores and figures out things. With this, a child is also going to show progress in writing and reading activities. It is in middle childhood that most typical learning disabilities are identified. This happens because it is at this age that children are tested on various academic skills like simple mathematics, pronunciation and spelling, etc.
According to Piaget's theory, children in the age groups of 7-11 years are in the third stage of cognitive development- the concrete operational stage. This stage enables children to excel in demonstrating various characteristics like reversibility (the knowledge that certain things can be returned to their original form after modification) and logic. For instance, in school when teachers write down the words apple, mango and cherry on the blackboard, children will be able to point that they are the names of fruits and at the same time, if asked to name some fruits, they will mention apple or mango.
Piaget's theory of cognitive development also determined that children will show a decrease in egocentrism in middle childhood. In other words, children will be able to understand that their older siblings and other people can have different thoughts or opinions about that cake they ate together on their birthday.
Emotional Development and Understanding:
The various changes and development that children in middle childhood undergo are quite significant and helpful for their overall well-being of the present and for their bright futures!. The cognitive improvements of middle childhood enable children to recognize their emotions and those of others. With this, their capacity to take in, process and view situations and their effect on their emotional stability also improve. They become capable of controlling and talking about some emotions. In fact, many studies show that by this age, most children have developed their capacity for regulating their own emotions. If you tell a child at this age that "everything is fine" whereas, in reality, the context made it clear that things are not actually all that good, they will catch on!
Coming back to our story, Arundhati started taking skating classes when she was 7 years old. Since then, she has participated in many inter-club skating competitions. Eight months ago, her parents held a small family dinner to celebrate her victory in the skating competition for children of her age group. The interest that Arundhati shows to solve simple mathematical problems, word problems and calculations is similar to that of her father when he was young. To secure this interest further, her mother recently enrolled her in an abacus class. Along with this, the enthusiasm and appreciation that Arundhati demonstrates while watching various art shows on television are incredible!. However, the moments that delight Arundhati the most are when her parents compliment her and show confidence in her. The lift in Arundhati's self-esteem and joy is a direct product of the consideration and acknowledgement shown by her parents and other elders of the family.
We all agree that the preschool period has a strong impact on the development of a child. Unfortunately, what sometimes gets neglected is the fact that middle childhood also is a critical period that carries a long-lasting influence on a child’s future mental health and overall well-being. Consistent negligence to the child's psychological well-being in middle childhood and a failure in attending to the child's emotional needs can result in the formation of bad relationships, early substance use, trouble relaxing and sleeping, loneliness, negative and instant reactive thinking, and some other serious psychological issues.
Arundhati is the only child in the family, and unlike other children of her age, she spends more time in the house with her parents alone. Arundhati’s parents try to 1) play an active role in Arundhati's day to day activities, and 2) show reasonable acceptance of what she chooses to do. Such behaviour will ensure that she inculcates values of team spirit, self-confidence and independence.
Every person is afraid of something at some point in his life and fear can be very real to children. If Arundhati’s parents are reassuring instead of critical to her fears — as well as mistakes — can help Arundhati avoid nervous mannerisms and shyness in her behaviour.
Diversion or lack of parental attention can cause a feeling of low self-esteem, and affect the way our children feel about themselves. They might feel unwanted and withdraw themselves from putting positive efforts into any form of interaction or activity. Low self-esteem can affect self-worth and social skills considerably.
Arundhati eagerly finds tasks that she is familiar with and are easy to accomplish. In fact, she moves towards their fulfilment quite vigorously when she has confidence. Surprised by the fact that her mother asked her for a pencil, Arundhati started to draw something on a sheet of paper when her mother was busy working on the guest list. She had to show the drawing to her mother! But, her mother, helpless she was, asked Arundhati to wait, again, then again. "Mummy sometimes can't hear when I call her name. So I shout (smiles)".
Recurrent experiences of neglect from adults can cause children in middle childhood to feel high levels of psychological distress which may have some serious consequences in later life.
As adults, we have a responsibility to allow children to know that they are loved and appreciated, not just for the things they do or say, but simply for being a part of our lives!.
Yes, you are right about this being real life! The ideal does not exist, and so we as parents may not be perfect. But it will always be worth trying to be the best we can, for our children!