from Tamara | Buffalo, NY
Anyone who spends time with children (of all ages) quickly learns that the path of development is not straight, smooth and obvious, but rather full of twists, turns, even detours and sometimes backtracking. As soon as we think we know what is happening and how we should respond, everything goes off track and we find ourselves full of questions and frustration once again, seemingly back to square one.
Anyone who spends time with children also learns that journey can be rewarding and joyful, especially when we feel mentally equipped and emotionally capable of stretching and re-aligning as we go. We feel empowered and energized each time we get something "right" with our kids and know deep down that we've met them where they are at right now, and gave them what they needed from us at this moment.
Especially during this time of worry and change, when all families are spending more time with their children - with the added role of daily teacher - it is important to have a deeper understanding of the stages of child development and the empathy for the different paths that each child takes within these norms. An awareness of the stages of child development is critical for understanding children, and being prepared to meet their needs appropriately.
Knowing what to expect with each phase of your children’s growth is helpful for maintaining perspective and determining ways to support children in becoming successful individuals who are capable of reaching their full potential. Knowing what is typical for certain ages will also help you be more patient, understanding, and tolerant of challenging behaviors and reduce the chance for blaming -- blaming your child for acting in ways that you think are inappropriate, and blaming yourself for your inability to “control” or meet the challenges they bring!
The Center for Parenting Education provides a wonderful overview of child development and typical child behavior. Because each child is unique, how you approach one child will differ from how you approach another. What works for one caregiver may not work for another. What works with a child one moment may not work later (or even immediately after the first time). As you read through the lists, it is imperative to remember that children grow and learn in their own unique ways and in their own unique timing. You can use this information about the stages of development to prepare yourself, then be ready to adapt or let go as your child needs. While knowledge is power, flexibility is freedom!
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