A look at a few logical things about child development, a guide of sorts, to hopefully help us all know if what our kids are experiencing is normal or not.
It is 11:30 am on a Monday morning, and I am in tears in a parking lot.
I have work to do, an errand to run, and I need to switch cars with my husband, but first I have to put gas in his so he doesn’t run out completely in rush hour traffic. I have exactly one hour until I need to pick up my son from his grandmother, so she can get to where she needs to go.
I’m worried, literally heavy in my chest, over something else with my kids.
A friend and I are sending messages back and forth that go something like this: “Remind me how hard this is if I ever tell you I am considering having a third kid” and “I have tears in my eyes because I’m the exact same way.”
This message is the one that stuck with me today, “I just can’t get the logical things I know about raising children and secure attachment down to my heart when it feels like it’s breaking.”
Parenting is just tough all around, don’t you agree?
Even as a therapist, with excellent classes under my belt about children and what is going on in their worlds as they grow, it is never easy to watch our kids struggle.
You may not be as much of a softie as me. (Teach me your ways!!) Or you may be right where I am some days, fretting over what is or could be harmful for your kids.
Regardless, we all have wished these tiny humans came with a manual every so often.
While I wish I was about to reveal that I had found the long lost manual how-to-raise-a-child-perfectly manuscript, you and I both know that would be a lie and you would consider everything I had to say garbage after that.
What I can offer you though are a few logical things I know about child development, a guide of sorts, to help us all know if what we are experiencing with our kids is normal or not.
For instance, is your child currently more clingy or prone to tantrums or isolating himself because of the divorce? Or is it developmentally normal in this stage of childhood?
This obviously will not answer all of your questions, but I think it may be a good starting place for us all in beefing up what we know logically about raising our babies. (Though I’ll be clear, I expect our hearts to keep breaking and not fully communicating with our logical heads sometimes!)
We will start with the babies and look through adolescence:
Age 0-18 months: This is an age for some typical developmental milestones. For instance, by three months old, your child will have begun to offer social smiles. Your nine month old will begin to express different emotions. Your one year old will likely have expressed some sort of separation anxiety. These are all normal emotional developmental experiences. Along with those, there will always be tearfulness as a way of communication. They will also be very dependent on familiar adults and highly self-centered.
Age 18 months-2 years: The toddler years – a breeding ground for tantrums of sorts, sometimes with explanations and sometimes none at all. These are children who know how to express different emotions more clearly, specifically negative ones. They also are able to obey simple commands and offer simple help. Often in the mid to later age of 2, possessiveness becomes more common and indicators of potty training pop up. In this age, children began to want more independence and yet also want your attention more often than not. Playing with other children often still looks like playing alongside them rather than with them.
Age 3-4 years: Communication at this age becomes much more clear and understandable. These children are beginning to play more with other children as opposed to just alongside them and are beginning to better notice and understand other people’s feelings. Tantrums are certainly still possible when they don’t get their way, but they are typically slacking off. This age typically becomes easier for separating from mom and dad. They may also become competitive, curious, and more affectionate.
Age 5-6 years: Typically, these are very sweet years. These children are even more independent but still want to please their adults. They can reason, respond well to others, and comfort others. These kids still need boundaries as they will test you, but they also just love being with you and playing with you.
Age 7-9 years: These children are typically ready for higher level relationships. They can read nonverbal cues and pick up on so much that is going on in the atmosphere around them. They are a little less likely to want to people please and may occasionally fall to aggression when their emotions are heightened. They may begin narrowing down the friends they have and settling in on “best friends” and developing more of their own identity. They may be more affectionate and also argumentative, sometimes in the same conversation!
Age 10-13 years: Big changes have started happening hormonally at this age, and it may feel as though aliens have taken over your sweet kid. Don’t be fooled, however! These children still want and need to be nurtured by you. They may not open up as readily to you about certain topics but may be better with a journal or a friend. They have the ability to be more logical but also trend toward moody with a need for personal alone space. At this age, children are looking less to to their parents for approval and much more to friends. These children are aware and noticing, especially of things that affect them and their image greatly.
Age 14 – 18 years: It is within these years that children are officially adolescents and now look to peers for approval instead of parents, most of the time. This may cause some emotional distance and even physical distance between child and parent, intentional by the child! They have the ability to be more introspective and are highly egocentric in some regards. They are more interested in experimentation, trying new relationships, figuring out who they are and what they want. It’s an important age for self-discovery and figuring out what it looks like to fail and succeed. They also may seem to want to be around you, the parent, very little as their social calendars fill up so easily. Moodiness is still common as those hormones do their work too!
This is completes just a very basic baseline for what is going on emotionally for your child at each stage. Our hope is that you can look at the age of your child and see it on the chart and feel relieved that your child is not the only one struggling. Kids at each stage have developmental crises to figure out, and that is only heightened by potentially life-altering events such as a divorce.
Again, I think back to my texts with my friend as I began this blog. Her last one struck me to the core. She said, “If parenting were just logical, it would be entirely different.”
Isn’t that the truth? There’s definitely some logic that may help you know if your child’s behavior trends toward normal or out of control. For instance, it is probably helpful to know that your teenager is intentionally distancing herself from you, from a developmental standpoint or that your four year old is not abnormal for throwing an occasional tantrum.
As always, it is important to remain near to them and also have other loving adults supporting you and your kids in this hard time.
It is also important for your mama or daddy heart to remember this: These are only basic guidelines. Your parent gut still plays an important role, as always. Sometimes the behavior you are observing in your child is totally abnormal for them, even if the charts you have seen say otherwise. If you are ever just certain something is going on with your child, but developmental guides say something else, remember to trust yourself. Ask a professional. Move in. Your observation is always important, especially in times like these when emotions may be haywire.
More than once, I have known for certain something was going on physically with an illness with my child and the doctor has initially disagreed. But I took him in anyway and got him checked and something was wrong, as I suspected. Dozens of parents have this same experience daily. As tuned in parents, we may need to explore alongside a professional and clue them into our child’s development. This is a way we get to stand up for our children, if need be.
Also, this is a baseline for average developing children. It does not take into consideration any sort of developmental delay.
Another note: In my research, I found some vast differences in traditional male and female childhood development. Because of this, we are planning on to post a blog soon breaking down some of these ages into traditional girl and boy development in a couple of blogs soon. Some things make a big difference based on gender at different ages and some don’t. We’d love to explore that a little more with you.
Be watching for more with us on development soon and have a great week with your amazing, developing child.
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