You’ve been a parent for nine years and you’ve seen your son progress from a helpless infant to an increasingly independent child with his own personality, but don’t worry, he still needs your help to grow into a healthy, happy adult.
His physical skills have developed to the point where he has good body control enabling him to play sports or dance; now he can concentrate on improving his strength, skill and speed. He’s still growing and will need around 10 hours sleep per day. He may also enter puberty and this is a good time to discuss the changes he’ll experience. He’ll become more aware of his body image and may need help to develop the necessary self-esteem to deal with how he feels about his appearance. Research has shown that eating disorders can start around this age; encouraging a healthy lifestyle, modeling a positive self-image and showing you value more than his looks will help prevent this. You may need to talk to him about sex if you haven’t already done so; there are books and organizations that can give you advice on how to do this in an age-appropriate way.
Cognitively, he’s able to think critically, share his views and thoughts and is curious about how things work, so you’ll still get lots of questions from him. He’ll want to be involved in major decision making, such as where to go on holiday, and may enjoy planning things. He’s starting to understand the value of delayed gratification; working hard at school to get the career he wants will make more sense to her now. His literacy skills have developed to the point where he can research information to present in book reports, essays or fiction, but he’ll still enjoy reading for pleasure. If he’s struggling, working with him, perhaps linking the material to his interests, can help him over this. His math homework is likely to include multiplication and division as well as fractions and geometry and he’s capable of collecting, organizing and sharing data in reports and presentations. You may have noticed a tendency to collect things though he’s moved on from the leaves or stones of his earlier years.
Socially, he’s able to form stronger, more complex peer relationships and it might be hard to keep track of who’s in favor at any given moment. It’s natural to gravitate towards friends of the same sex and you shouldn’t try to discourage this since he’ll still develop some healthy relationships with boys. Friends and social activities may become more important than anything the family is organizing. Peer pressure is a strong influence and self-esteem is important in overcoming any negative effects by giving him the confidence to stick to his values. His conscience is developing and he’ll have a strong sense of fairness and not just as events relate to him; these feelings may translate into action such as wanting to do something practical to help those less fortunate. While he is more capable of accepting failure, admitting to mistakes and taking responsibility for them, he may still find it difficult to admit to being wrong; he’ll learn how to do that from your example. He may become easily embarrassed or upset by criticism, so you need to be aware of how he may interpret what you say to him; being objective and focusing on the issue or his actions, rather than him as a person, will help.
There’s a lot you can do to support him. His moods may change from one moment to the next and letting him know you love him, even though you might dislike his behavior, whilst setting clear, consistent boundaries will help him learn to stabilize her emotions. Encouraging him to discuss her concerns, showing affection and promoting a sense of responsibility, by setting chores, talking to him about spending and saving wisely or letting him run the family planner, will give him the confidence and skills he’ll need. It’s worth noting the safety issues may be different now, so you’ll need to talk to him about internet and mobile phone usage and the changing face of stranger danger.
Your child is on his way to becoming a young man and you have a vital role in giving him a template for his behavior, moral code and view of himself that will help him grow into a happy, healthy adult.