“Thank you for everything you have taught my son and me. You have really taught me how important it is to keep reconnecting with my child.”
~ Mother of an 8 year old boy
West Woodland Elementary School PTA Meeting - May 29, 2008
I was invited to speak to the West Woodland Elementary School PTA by a mother wanting to learn more about child development in the K-5 grades. She told me that when her child was a baby the topic of healthy development was front and center, but now that they have entered the elementary school ages she rarely has time to talk with other parents about development. This is the time in your child's life in which you are working hard to get kids to school on time, help them with homework, shuttle them to after school activities (and often back and forth between two households) and keep tabs on their academic progress that little time is left over to read up on the latest perspectives of healthy development. Parents are no longer required to stay with their child during playdates; a time when parents found it natural to "check in" with other parents about how their children are doing. And yet, this is a very important time for you to be checking in with other parents and with educators to help solve the little mysteries your child will present along the way. My wish would be for parent coffee times while their children are engaged in some activity.
I used the development chart offered by Dr. Stanley Greenspan in his book entitled, "Playground Politics; Understanding the Emotional Life of Your School Age Child" as our reference in my presentation. He offers a clear and uncomplicated way to look at development during these years. It is very important for parents to remember that any developmental chart or theory is one guide or tool and that all children are unique. This naturally leads to the question of how do you know when a child is simply on his/her own timeline or if there truly is a problem that should be addressed sooner rather than later? Unfortunately, there is no simple answer to this question. The way I look at it is to see how a particular behavior or delay is impacting a child's sense of wellbeing in the world. Not to say that there won't be moments of discomfort in all our lives. What I am suggesting is this is one way to see if there is a deeper problem than just your typical "phase". If something is compromsing your child's ability to go to school, learn, grow and engage socially it might be worth checking in with someone who works with children; a teacher, a doctor, or a child therapist.
Jennifer Stoakes, MA