Preparing For Your Child’s Nine-Year Change
It may be that many children gravitate to fairy tales in their pre-school and kindergarten years because these stories reflect the world that they inhabit. An air of magic still hangs over everything – magic and deep significance. They are not so self-conscious yet, and they have the curious ability to merge with their surroundings and not feel separate from anything. For this reason, Fairy Godmothers can feel very real to children at this stage in their growth. So can the monsters under the bed.
When they do become more and more aware of themselves as separate beings, it is a sign that they are developing their ability to reason and think critically. This process intensifies so predictably around a certain age that some child psychologists and educators refer to it as the nine-year change.
Unfortunately, we parents are usually the first recipients of our children’s critiques and judgments. When they were younger, they needed to think that we were omnipotent and all-powerful. They were completely dependent upon us, so that belief served a purpose. But now they have more developed egos and a clearer sense of themselves, and so they’re able to let go of those fairy tale images of us. We might rejoice, if we didn’t get so frustrated by the number of times that they enjoyed pointing out our faults.
Along with this awareness of their own minds comes increased consciousness of their bodies. Many parents notice that their children become modest around this age. Where they had once been exhibitionists, parading around the house half-dressed or in no clothes at all, suddenly they’re adamant about changing in private, keeping the bathroom and bedroom doors closed at all times, and taking showers alone. They tend to resist our attempts to cuddle them or send them off to school with kisses. These impulses can begin in children as young as five or six, but they typically occur more often between the ages of seven and ten. They represent the strides our young ones take as they build their sense of identity and assert their new boundaries.
The nine-year change is basically the process by which children step out from under our protective wings and begin to discover who they are in relation to the outside world. Their budding egos depend upon their ability to question and make value judgments about everything in their environment – including us. Once, we may have been infallible in their eyes; but now, any little mistake we make is fair game. They will surely keep us on our toes. But at least the experience will prepare us for the next stage, when critical thinking transforms into outright testing of boundaries as they reach adolescence.