TIME OF CHANGE FOR CHILDREN AND PARENTS
Susan Ginsberg, Ed. D.
hard to believe all those kids in Melissa's sixth-grade class are the
her father commented after attending a school play. But indeed they
are. And those differences in the rates of growth and development that
he observed--some tall, some short, some physically mature, others not--are
one of the characteristics that define children from about 9 to 13.
These are the kids we call middle-schoolers, preteens or preadolescents. And because they are changing
at such different rates, any descriptions of early adolescence should
be considered merely as guidelines rather than hard or fast rules.
often feel awkward and insecure because of the physical changes they are
undergoing. And just when they most want to be like everyone else, their
friends are all maturing at different rates. Typically, preadolescents
become preoccupied with how they look. What made me realize Karen
was an official preteen,
says her Mom was when she started spending so much time in front
of the mirror--deciding whether to wear her shirt tucked in or hanging
out, and fussing with her hair.
rely on their friends
and feel the need to belong. Their group gives them a sense of security--and,
often, it seems as if friends replace family as the center of a child's
life. But this can also be a turbulent time for friendships. As old
friends drift apart, kids can feel hurt, and parents worry whether or
how to intervene.
test limits and challenge rule. They have developed some
strong opinions, often want to do things their way and don't hesitate
to state their case and argue with you. To assert their individuality
and protect themselves against what they consider to be arbitrary rules,
they have a tendency to deny anything that seems to put them in a bad
are similar to toddlers in some ways.
Eric wants to be independent,
his Dad comments, but he still wants
us to take care of him. He says things such as: ´Why didn't you wake
me up?' or ´You forgot to remind me about my lunch money.' He wants
us around, but at a comfortable distance, not hovering over him.
want privacy. Debby
doesn't want to talk to her friends on the phone where anyone can hear, her mom reports. She closes the door when
she gets dressed. She doesn't ask me what she should wear anymore, and
when she decides on an outfit or how to do her hair, she changes it
a few minutes later because she's not sure how she wants to look.
make excuses not
to do chores or start projects that need to be done. Their planning
and organizing skills are not well developed. In addition, their sense
of time is fuzzy. If you ask a preteen to take out the garbage and he
says Later, don't count on it. He's likely to get involved
in something else and forget; just as he forgets to bring home his jacket
or hat from school.
are beginning to have a social conscience.
They are becoming aware of and interested in issues that affect society--and
are often willing to take care of a baby, help out at senior citizens'
center, or stuff envelopes for a cause.
on the whole are quite wonderful.
Despite being forgetful and sometimes moody and irritable, they are
energetic, enthusiastic and eager to learn new skills. Among other things,
they are capable of playing complicated musical instruments, learning
a second language and creating pieces of art and writing that are amazingly
profound, says Judith Baenen of the National Middle
from Work & Family Life
newsletter, edited by Susan Ginsberg)