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The Middle Years
By Karen DeBord, Ph.D.


Between the ages of 6 and 12, the child's world moves outward from the family as relationships are formed with friends, teachers, coaches, caregivers, and others. Because they are having more experiences, many things can affect how a child thinks and feels. Some situations can create stress and affect self-esteem. The middle childhood is a time to prepare for adolescence and to show their increased knowledge and independence. Up to this point, children have always looked up to parents as the source of information, but now children judge parents more and label their actions differently.

Social and Emotional Development

There are signs of growing independence. Children test their growing knowledge with possible back-talk and rebellion.

Common fears include the unknown, failure, death, family problems, and rejection.

Children are beginning to see the point of view of others better.

Children define themselves through their appearance, things they own, and activities

They can control angry outbursts better and have a higher ability to handle frustration.

They tend to 'tattle tale" to get attention

Children may still be afraid of the dark and monsters between 6-8 years old.

They become attached to adults other then their parents

Their feelings are easily hurt and can have mood swings

Practical Advice to Parents to Promote Healthy Social/Emotional Development

Encourage non-competitive games to avoid comparing skills from one child to another

Give children lots of positive attention and let them help make the rules

Show confidence in their ability to make good decisions

Ask, "How could you do that differently next time?" when they make

Be aware of the child's underlying feelings when they talk to you

Give children positive attention for success

Avoid criticizing or humiliating children's skills or decisions.

Physical Development

Growth is slower than preschool years, but steady. Eating levels may change as they grow.

In the later stages of middle childhood, body changes show the start of puberty.

Activity may bring tiredness. Children need about 10 hours of sleep each night.

Muscle coordination and control are uneven and incomplete in the early stages, but children become almost as coordinated as adults by the end of middle childhood.

Small muscles develop quickly, making more difficult activities more enjoyable now.

Baby teeth with come out and permanent ones will come in. Overcrowded teeth are common.

Eyes reach full growth in middle childhood and eye exams are needed.

Practical Advice for Parents to Promote Healthy Physical Development

Let both boys and girls choose from a variety of activities, not just the ones that are usually boy or girl activities.

Help children to balance busy and quiet activity time.

Regular dental and eye check-ups are important at this stage.

Mental Development

Children can begin to think about their own behavior and see what may happen because of their actions.

Children begin to read and write early in middle childhood and can do it well by the later stages.

Children learn best through 'hands-on' activity.

Children usually can't sit longer than 20 minutes for any activity, but their attention span gets better with age.

Children start many projects as they explore new things, but rarely finish them.

Children can talk through problems and solve them.

Children begin to see themselves as 'workers'.

Practical Advice for Parents to Promote Healthy Mental Development

Be patient with the more challenging, rebellious behaviors children show as they learn to think for themselves.

Adults can ask "what if" questions to help children develop problem solving skills

Encourage children to read books and create their own stories

Think of ways to use daily activities as 'hands-on" learning time

Make sure to have one on one time with your child to listen and talk

Moral Development

Moral development happens over time through direct experience

Children want to feel useful and to have a sense that they are a help to the family.

TV violence can make children think that it is normal for people to act that way.

Children need to practice activities that show caring for others.

Love, caring, and positive relations play central roles in ethics and moral education.

Practical Advice for Parents to Promote Healthy Moral Development

Teach responsible caring behaviors by treating children with care and respect.

You show you care for your child when you listen to their opinion and show that how they feel matters and is important to you. They then learn to do that for others.

Show that caring for, responding to, and working to understand others is an important value in your family.

Help your child to do 'good deeds' for others to give them practice and a feeling of pride in their kind actions through volunteer activities or modeling.

Make sure to show your children how kind and loving they are when they act in kind and loving ways.

Karen DeBord, Ph.D.is a Child Development Specialist at the North Carolina Cooperative Extension Service. Reprinted with permission


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