With the recent changes of schools being more virtual, parents have to face the challenges of kids being distant from peers their own age. As a parent, you are probably wondering how might this affect my child’s development. Developmentally, children that are preschool age and up to teen years are learning through social contexts how to manage their emotions and how to interact with peers. Some developmental milestones can be seen in several stages.
Toddlers and Preschoolers At this stage, toddlers are having tantrums to communicate their wants and needs. By age 3-4 years old, they are initiating pretend play but have difficulties with being flexible with routines. For special needs children, specially those with autism, this can be seen in later years of life if not taught self-regulation skills and coping skills early. Positive Parenting Tips:
- At this age, you want to develop a routine that your child can follow in the home. It can be as simple as having the same activities planned out to do every day. Add some pictures to place on a refrigerator door or on a blank wall. Have your child point to the pictures corresponding to the activity. Then… voila! It is very likely that you will see your child get used to seeing the same picture-activity and will be ready to engage in that activity in the future. There is a feeling of safety to knowing when things happen next.
- Expectations, Expectations, Expectations. Tell your child what activities you are going to do BEFORE you start an activity. This can alleviate a lot of problem behaviors.
- For children that are nonverbal, teach your child to communicate their wants and needs by teaching them to point or reach for you to grab things. PECs ( Picture Exchange System) and photos of preferred foods and items can really help teach your nonverbal kiddo to communicate. This helps to reduce major tantrums and meltdowns when their needs and wants go unmet. In my next article, I will give a step-by step guide on how to get your nonverbal child to communicate with PECs.
Elementary Age Children between the ages of 5- 12 begin to have more conversations with their peers. They learn to identify emotions, empathy, and how to develop their own identity. Positive Parenting Tips:
- Talk with your child about topics that interest them. Children are more likely to discuss things that they like to normally talk about. If your child talks ad nauseam about their favorite tv show, then ask questions centered around that topic.
- Model important social behavior such as eye contact and how to look for nonverbal cues to change a topic. Social interactions at this age can be very pivotal as children learn to share their experiences and adapt to different topics initiated by their peers.
- Coping with your stress in healthy ways is very important.
Teen years Children learn critical thinking skills, problem solving, the value of friendships and independent living skills. At this age, teenagers will usually show some elevated mood swings and emotional highs and lows. This is because at this age, teens are experiencing a surge of hormones and body weight issues. You may hear the phrase ” mom am I fat in this?” Emotionally, they are experiencing novel feelings such as the ” love” hormone, oxytocin. They are also making love connections with those that peak their interest. You can also expect to see your child experiencing negative emotions; depression, anger, and outbursts which can lead to problem behaviors in social environments. As a parent, it is important to realize that your child will progressively display less conflicts, especially during the ages of 15-17.
Positive Parenting Tips:
- Be a listening ear to your teen child’s opinions on different subjects that are important to them. Let them know how you value their opinion and avoid statements that are negative. Statements like “that is so stupid” and “how could you do that?” will only evoke more negative emotions about their self-esteem and self- worth.
- Teach your child critical thinking skills by using every day routines and scenarios. Some topics that you can problem solve or talk about are things that your teen child would do in regards to peer pressure, cyber bullying, or rejection from a love interest.