In today’s fast-moving world, it seems that kids are growing up faster than ever. They’re more tech savvy than any of us were, which is part of the reason they’re exposed to so much more grownup “stuff” than we ever were. More TV channels combined with endless content via social media gives younger kids more access to content once reserved for much older kids (and even full-grown adults in too many cases). Clothing manufacturers seem intent on creating kids’ fashions that are more like miniature adult outfits than anything else. All of this means that many grade schoolers are now faced with the kind of pressure to be grown up that didn’t used to show its head until the teen or immediately pre-teen years. This can be confusing for kids and parents alike. Below, we’ll look at a few things parents can do to help keep their kids from growing up too fast because, while we all want our children to grow up to be confident adults, we don’t want them to abandon their childish things and ways before they’re really ready.
Know what they’re watching
Since many shows that are geared towards 7-10 year olds feature teen stars, many younger kids have to come idolize these teens. Show creators and advertisers have latched onto this as a way to market products and ideas that once would have been geared toward actual teens to much younger children. This means that your younger child might be watching content that you don’t feel is truly age appropriate. Taking the time to watch some of his favorite shows yourself, either with him or on your own, can give you the best insight into the type of content that is shaping his world. If you decide that you’re not thrilled about what your child is watching, your best bet is to discuss your concerns with him rather than just outlaw the programs altogether. Explain why you don’t believe this content is an appropriate representation of the real world or why you disagree with the behaviors being displayed. At the end of the day, you’re still the parent, which gives you the absolute right to control what he watches on TV and online. Sharing your reasons with him helps to further the values you want to instill and, whether he realizes it or not right now, lets him know you’re looking out for him.
Understand their body image issues
Since younger kids are bombarded by so much content once reserved for teens and adults, many children start worrying about how their bodies look well before puberty. There even seems to be real evidence that more kids are going through the beginning stages of puberty earlier than ever. It’s important not to dismiss your child’s concerns about his or her body. Girls are more likely to be concerned about body hair and breast development, whereas boys may wish they were taller or more muscular. If your child shows signs of becoming overly self conscious, take the time to hear her concerns and treat them the same way you would if she were older. Explain that we all develop at different rates and that who we are on the inside is always going to be more important than how we look. Remind her of all of the things that make her unique and special as an individual.
While it’s important to let young children explore the world and their own talents and passions, don’t let their search for independence keep them from being kids. Encourage family activities like game nights and crafting projects. These activities reinforce your family’s values while teaching your child creative and independent thinking.
When it comes to keeping your kids’ behavior as age-appropriate as possible, your most important action may be to never miss a moment to hold them close and remind them that no matter how old they get, they’ll always be your babies.