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Your Child Today: Late Elementary

Preparing for Puberty

Next to being born, puberty may well be the most drastic change we experience in life.

And for many children, the months and years leading up to puberty can be difficult as well.

Even before your child experiences physical changes, her body is preparing for this next step. As the hormones begin to do their job, your child?s fluctuating moods will reflect that inner turmoil. As one parent said about her preteen daughter, "Ashley went to bed one night as an optimistic, confident 10-year-old with a world of friends, but woke up the next day as a disjointed, moody person who hated the world and everyone in it."

The late elementary years are bound to be a little tough for any kid. Not quite grown up, but no longer a child, your child is struggling to figure out where he fits. Your daughter may go to school wearing a bra and a splash of your favorite afterbath spray, then come home, throw on a pair of torn jeans, and climb into a tree fort with the neighborhood kids. The home run hitter who slides into base and smiles at a cute girl may still ask you to cuddle with before he falls asleep at night? and it?s all normal!

Outwardly, your late elementary child is a passionate bundle of energy and enthusiasm; inwardly, she might live with a growing sense of insecurity. This insecurity can affect everything from her feelings about school or her family to her relationship with God. It?s essential that you stay connected to your child during this time, even if she seems to push you away. She needs to know you?re available any time she needs to talk about the changes she?s experiencing.

While puberty often marks a shift from parent as confidant to peers as confidants, the pre-puberty stage can sometimes create bumps in the friendship road. During the late elementary years, relationship problems can arise between two "best" friends, particularly if one child enters puberty earlier than the other. This difference in both physical and emotional development can tear apart even the best friendships and hurt already sensitive feelings.

Yet, even if maintaining a close friend is difficult, peer groups and a close circle of friends are vital for kids at this age and offer a much-needed sense of belonging. As the body changes, preteens depend on this close-knit group of peers to feel secure and "normal" apart from their familial surroundings.

How can you help your child during these difficult days?

Practice an open door policy. Let your kids know that your home is open to their friends.

Be a good listener. Sometimes your child just needs a sounding board or someone to validate her feelings of "Am I really OK?"

Encourage new friendships. If your child is growing apart from childhood friends, suggest some "active" measures to encourage new friendships, such as joining a school club or inviting friends over for a night of videos and popcorn.

Remember how she feels. Show her pictures of yourself at her age. Talk about how you felt when you went through similar struggles and remind her that everyone grows and changes at different times.

Help him relax. Encourage him to be himself and spend his downtime doing the activities he enjoys.

Enjoy her childhood. Keep her activities and privileges age-appropriate so your child can continue to fully enjoy childhood.

Say "I love you." Let your child know that God made each of us different?varying shapes, sizes and figures. Use Scripture passages such as Genesis:1:27 and Ephesians:3:17-19 to give him the ongoing assurance that he is just right in God?s sight.

?Debra Bruce
Writer and mother of three

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