Your 9 Year old Child – a Time of Transition


Suddenly, in the seeming blink of an eye, your previously easygoing 7-8 year old has turned into a nine year old.

You might have noticed that they have become more inward, thoughtful or moody, and are asking tough questions? Or perhaps you’re struggling with increasing criticism, anger and aggression? Your nine year old might seem more self-conscious, separate somehow.

All these changes are normal. Your child has entered a transition phase, somewhere between childhood and adolescence.

They are developing into their own person, wanting more independence, but still needing structure. As a result, they still need to know that you are there to help them through the changes they are experiencing.

Stages of Child Development

Child development happens in a certain pre-determined sequence, with each new stage building on the foundations of previous ones. Each stage brings us new challenges. There is always more to learn about our children as they grow, developing their individual personalities and interests, following their own paths through life.

Remember the terrible two’s? Then your child turned three, and started to see themselves as a separate being. They  used the  word “I” for the first time and understood what that meant.

Your nine year old is transitioning between childhood and the teen years. As a result they might appear more emotional, clingy, anxious, argumentative, defiant. Perhaps you feel they never listen to you, or are  becoming self-critical. 

All of these behaviours are bringing us a message. Your child might be feeling overwhelmed by what is happening, with new emotions surfacing. These changes can feel a bit confusing, particularly when they are in the midst of a group of other children all having similar experiences!

At the same time, you might be noticing early signs of puberty starting to emerge. Alongside this you there might be an increase in peer pressure and a perceived need to conform.

Nine year olds are moving towards  more independence, but still needing guidance. They need to know that you are close as they navigate this new stage of life.

We adults need to be aware that these changes represent a necessary stage in the development of our child and they won’t last forever. We can support them with love, and offer guidance during this transitional time. Negotiating this stage successfully will lead to a new self-assurance and sense of independence and identity in your child.

Is your Child’s Behaviour  “Pushing your Buttons”?

You might find your nine year old’s behaviours are “pushing your buttons”. Their behaviour might be touching on your own experiences at this age. If you are feeling uncertain, or finding disturbing emotions are rushing unbidden to the surface, it’s a good time to address this with your counsellor.

Your body unconsciously remembers your own childhood challenges. Maybe you found yourself struggling to feel seen, heard and understood at this age, too?

This is also a good time to address any relationship issues, either with your child or your partner (or both). Strengthening connections, offering support and understanding now will pay dividends when you have a teenager in your home.

In the Classroom

Ideally, all the important development stages of the first 7 years are complete and your child has settled into academic learning – reading and writing and spelling.

Midlines are usually fully integrated between the ages of 7 and 8, completing the first seven year cycle. Each side of the brain has now developed specialised roles and are able to work together. You might have noticed that your nine year old has an increased capacity for academic learning, and understanding more abstract concepts.

As a result, expectations at school are increasing. If your child has struggled in their earlier years, they may now become more aware of falling behind, seeing their friends do well in areas where they can’t keep up. So often, although they are working just as hard as their friends, they can’t understand why they aren’t getting better marks.

You might find challenging behaviours escalating as a result. The effort to keep up can lead to frustration, lack of motivation and perhaps downright school refusal. 

Throughout this time, your child needs your understanding and support. It is also a good time to check for developmental immaturities that can affect their ability to benefit from classroom instruction. Seeking help now, before tasks become more challenging, and confidence and self esteem suffers can really make a positive difference for your child.

Positive Parenting Tips for Nine Year Olds

  • It’s an important time to listen to your child, find out what they are experiencing, without trying to fix things or offer solutions unless asked for. 
  • Help them to find the words for their feelings, knowing that you can listen to them without judgement.
  • Try to avoid battles. Instead, try to see their point of view, but also let them know how you feel when they are “pushing your buttons”. Your counsellor can help with learning useful skills of communication without blame.
  • Your nine year old needs your love and support just as much as they did when they were younger. Yes, you are still that important! Remember when you were nine, and the struggles you faced then?
  • They’ll still enjoy the closeness of having you read aloud to them. Perhaps you can take turns to read chapters, or pages to each other. This builds closeness through sharing time together.
  • Negotiating a later bedtime can help to recognise their need for greater independence. But remember, you are still the authority figure, and will have the final say in decision making.
  • As authority figures, you and your partner can help by role modelling the positive behaviour you would like to see in your child. Part of this will include showing how to safely negotiate areas of conflict, but also healthy communication, patience and understanding.
  • Find out what really interest them, and help them to develop hobbies around these interests. Maybe they are creative, enjoy gardening, or like to tinker with mechanics.
  • Finally, help them to get out of the house, away from computers, and encourage daily physical activity.

Counselling Can Help

If things are a bit “wobbly” at home, it’s often an indication of incomplete earlier stages of development.  Each new stage is built on the foundation of previous levels. I think of this like a tower of blocks – if the base layers are unstable, the top ones can become increasingly unsteady. Early intervention is the key to addressing concerns of developmental delay.

I offer counselling and development support for both parents and children. You might also like to consider couples counselling sessions to make sure you are on the same page with parenting styles. Your children feel safer, and behaviour improves, when they don’t feel they have to play you off against each other!

Need help – give me a call 

About Rosalind

Since 2005 I have been helping children with learning and behavioural challenges such as autism, dyslexia, ADHD and other sensory processing difficulties. I use an holistic, or whole child approach combining counselling with a development movement program, known as The Extra Lesson. This program addresses underlying immaturities in early development that are contributing to their learning and behavioural challenges. Sessions are available online and in person at Moruya South Head.

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