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Elementary School: Time for Independence

by Lori Sciame | June 4th, 2014 | Behavior, Elementary

sea-gull-177364_640Once a child hits elementary school, she can complete many important tasks without a parent’s help, including dressing herself, combing her hair, brushing her teeth, making her bed, and even making new friends.  Hard to believe this “little miss independent” finished preschool only a short while ago!

I vividly remember how each of my three children began to pull away from me once they entered elementary school.  It felt bittersweet to witness blooming independence, while at the same time knowing I would never again be my child’s “everything.”

But in a healthy child, this is what needs to happen.  A child must begin to see himself as part of something bigger – a world beyond his own parents and family.  He must assert himself.  He must develop friendships.

There are parents who stifle their children’s attempts to become self-sufficient.  For instance, one woman I knew became a full-time room mother in her daughter’s kindergarten class.  That would have been fine, but her attachment to her daughter continued all the way through 12th grade.  The woman literally attended school WITH her child by taking jobs with every school transition. Even when her daughter was in high school, the mother got a job as a lunch room assistant!

Is it any wonder this woman’s daughter, now 23, can’t make a move without her mother’s approval?

I certainly understand how hard it is to let a child in elementary school test his or her independence.  Yet, in order to grow up with confidence, children need to do just that.  As outlined by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), parents can actually assist a child with finding his or her place in a larger context.  Among other things, they recommend that a parent should “encourage your child to join school and community groups, such as a team sports, or to take advantage of volunteer opportunities.”

This does not mean, however, that you should quit doing things with your child. On the contrary, continue to spend time with your child. Play games with him. Listen to him.  Basically, be there for him.

It might be easier to understand if you think of yourself as your daughter or son’s safe haven.  In this scenario, the child goes out into the world, and she tests the waters … only to return to you (and to safety) at the end of each day.  Give her a chance to be independent, praise her for her accomplishments, and give her plenty of hugs; however, if she needs guidance or a shoulder to cry on, be there for her.

It might not seem like it, but elementary children grow into teens and twenty-somethings in a blink of an eye.  A parent can’t stop time from moving forward no matter how much we wish we could.  Make sure you prepare your elementary student for life’s challenges the right way, with love and with an eye towards his or her future.

For more information on parenting a six-to-eight-year-old, check out the CDC’s website by clicking here.

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