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Middle Childhood Parenting Introduction

Child Development & Parenting: Middle (8-11)

This document is about parenting elementary-school-aged children. It provides information and advice on caring for children during their middle-childhood years, between ages 8 and 11 years, approximately. It is part of our larger series on Child Development and Parenting. In this series, we have divided childhood into four broad periods: Infancy, Early Childhood, Middle Childhood, and Adolescence. We have created separate articles concerning parenting and child development for each of these periods, based on the idea that effective parenting technique follows from an appreciation of children's development; what they are capable of and what they continue to struggle with at specific moments in their lives.

We encourage you to read through our Middle Childhood Child Development Theory center if you have not already done so. That document discusses important physical, cognitive, emotional, social and moral developmental milestones and achievements that most children are likely ...More

Fast Facts: Learn! Fast!

What are the nutritional requirements in the middle childhood years?

  • Children require a balanced and healthy diet in order to fuel the amazing physical growth and bodily change occurring during Middle Childhood.
  • The trick for parents at this stage is to manage to foster children's independent healthy eating choices without over-stepping and over-controlling children's food selections, possibly setting the stage for children's later unhealthy relationship with food.
  • Parents should provide children with a menu that includes foods from all of the basic food groups, offering mostly nutrient-dense foods and minimizing "junk foods" that are low in nutrient value and high in sugar, fat, and salt.
  • Children need to learn how to make healthy food selections and to control how much they eat when parents are not present to do these things for them.
  • Children should be included in family grocery shopping and cooking chores so as to teach them by example how to read food nutrition labels, how to measure portions, how to follow recipes and how to prepare foods using healthier cooking methods, including grilling, steaming and baking.
  • On average, 8-year-olds require between 1400 and 1600 calories every day. Between the ages of 9 and 12, girls need approximately 1600 to 2000 calories each day. In contrast, boys between the ages of 9 and 12 need approximately 1800-2200 calories per day.
  • Children over the age of two should be eating whole grains, fruits, vegetables, lean protein, calcium-rich dairy products, and some oils every day.
  • Children also need to drink plenty of water each day. Approximately 64 ounces are required each day in order to keep their bodies well hydrated.
  • Beyond just providing the fuel and nutrients for growing up healthy, eating can also be an activity that promotes social development and family bonding.

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How important is sleep in middle childhood?

  • Well rested children are better able to focus attention and learn during classes or extracurricular activities.
  • They are also more likely to be in a better mood than are poorly rested peers, and more likely to follow rules at home and school.
  • In general, children in middle childhood require about 9 to 10 hours of sleep each night.
  • A well-planned bedtime routine, enforced by parents and through repetition, enables school-aged kids time to prepare themselves mentally and physically for sleep.
  • The goal of the bedtime routine is to gradually transition children from activities to sleep.
  • Night-time routines are still a perfect opportunity for parents and children to spend one-on-one or whole-family "quality time" with one another.
  • Some children will still have problems falling asleep, or staying asleep throughout the night, and several different strategies can be used to address children's insomnia.

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What hygiene habits are important during middle childhood?

  • "Personal hygiene" refers to people's personal health-promoting habits, such as hand washing, tooth brushing, and covering one's nose when sneezing.
  • Parents should be teaching children to brush their teeth at least twice a day and to floss between their teeth at least once a day.
  • After dental hygiene, thorough and careful hand-washing is perhaps the second most important personal hygiene habits children need to practice in middle childhood.
  • Children should be educated about the nature of germs, including bacteria and viruses that cause illness, and how these invisible but very real germs can contagiously spread through the air when people cough or sneeze.
  • Children should be encouraged to bath themselves regularly so as to remove dirt, oils, sweat and the like from their hair and bodies.
  • Hair care is another important aspect of keeping one's self clean and healthy-looking.
  • Parents should model and teach young children to change their clothes every day, especially making sure to change their socks and underwear which may accumulate odor more than outer clothing.
  • As children near puberty, they may also need to start using a daily underarm deodorant or antiperspirant to prevent body odor from becoming a problem during the day.
  • As children enter puberty, they may begin to develop acne, otherwise known as pimples or zits.
  • Girls entering puberty need to learn how to care for feminine hygiene needs, including proper and safe methods for using and disposing of tampons and sanitary pads.
  • Parents should take care to balance children's expressed desire for particular high status clothing items against family resources.
  • Allowing children to have a say, if not the deciding vote, in determining their individual hairstyles is important.

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What health and medical information is important during middle childhood?

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What child safety issues are important in middle childhood?

  • Even though children are now past the age and size where they require a car seat or booster seat, they still need to ride in the back seat of the car until they are at least 12 years old.
  • Prescription medications and household cleaners offer another example of a common danger school-aged children need to be protected from.
  • Middle-childhood aged children continue to benefit from regular reminders regarding traffic and road safety, particularly when they may be walking or biking about unsupervised.
  • Parents should instruct and remind children to never follow or go someplace with a stranger, even when that stranger claims to know or be acting on instructions from known caregivers.
  • The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that children should not be left home alone before the age of 12. Parents need to communicate, and children need to show that they understand, any house rules for how they should act when home alone.
  • When using bikes or scooters, children should wear helmets and appropriate elbow and knee pads in order to protect them from falls or other impacts which could damage their bones, joints or brains.
  • Constant, vigilant adult supervision of children while they are swimming near a pool is essential.
  • Parents need to consider children's safety when purchasing a new pet or maintaining a veteran pet. When selecting pets for homes with school-aged children, dogs and cats seem to be the best pets as playmates and pals.
  • One final area of home safety that needs to be considered by parents of (American) school-aged children is the appropriate storage and use of guns.

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What educational information is important to known during middle childhood?

  • A variety of factors should be considered when selecting a school including the school's mission and philosophy of teaching, student-teacher ratio, academic expectations, the culture and diversity of the students and staff, average student performance on external rating criteria (such as standardized test scores) and the safety of the school environment are all important considerations.
  • No matter which school is selected, parents need to make sure to complete all of the required steps necessary to successfully enroll their children.
  • Once children are enrolled in a school, it is important that parents do what they can to form a close working relationship with the teachers, administrators and other staff associated with that school and generally to become involved in their children's school life as much as possible.
  • It's important then that parents pay attention to children's homework assignments, prompting children to complete them and, as much as possible, providing children with the resources they need to successfully complete the work.
  • From time to time, more often for some children than for others, children may be disciplined at school. To gain the most objective understanding of what has occurred, parents will need to listen to both the school's version of events and the child's as well and try to put together from these multiple sources what actually happened.
  • Parents should also develop a plan for how they will handle school closings (scheduled and unscheduled), and days when children are too sick to attend school.

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What discipline and guidance should parents offer during middle childhood?

  • Calm, direct, and honest communication remains the basic foundation for positive discipline and guidance of children in middle childhood.
  • Parents can use the communication technique known as reflection to guide children's conversations about their friendships, pointing out for inspection the positive aspects of healthy friendships and the negative aspects that accompany unhealthy or hurtful friendships.
  • As school-aged children spend more time with friends and classmates away from the direct supervision of adults, they start needing to choose how they will behave (as opposed to simply complying with how caregivers want them to behave).
  • Though teaching children to think critically for themselves is the ultimate goal, many children will not be in a position to make the right decisions on their own at first, and thus it is practical to also offer children clearly verbalized expectations for how they need to behave and a description of the consequences that will occur if they make wrong choices.
  • Time outs continue to be a powerful and effective means of motivating children's compliance through about age 11 or 12.
  • Because grounding involves a prolonged isolation, it should be used very sparingly, and then only in sensible proportion to the magnitude of misbehavior.
  • Giving children age-appropriate chores is an important way to increase their self-esteem, pride, responsibility, and independence.
  • Parents can help children to become more sophisticated and thoughtful about money by introducing them to important money-related concepts such as the importance of saving or banking money, distinguishing between needs and wants, learning budgeting skills, and learning to pay bills responsibly.
  • School-aged children also need and benefit from loving nurturance expressed by parents and caregivers.
  • Middle-childhood aged children need to have some area within their homes that is their own private space and which they can expect to control.

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What tough topics will parents and children have to deal with during middle childhood?

  • For the first time, children in middle-childhood have to cope with some or all of the following experiences that leave them feeling vulnerable and force them to understand that they are not entirely in control of their lives when it counts the most.
  • In an important sense, these difficult experiences assist children with their maturation process.
  • It is through the experience of successfully coping with such challenging crises that children learn about themselves, gain coping experience, and revise their self-esteem and self-efficacy expectations.
  • However, children do need the love and support of their parents and caregivers as they struggle with these life crises in order to understand how to cope and to come to terms with the meaning of these events.
  • These issues may include:

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News Articles

  • CDC: Many School Children Are Not Getting Enough Sleep

    Many middle school and high school students have short sleep duration, according to research published in the Jan. 26 issue of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report. More...

  • Former NFL Pros Push for End to Kids' Tackle Football

    A group of former National Football League greats -- including Hall of Famers Harry Carson of the New York Giants and Nick Buoniconti of the Miami Dolphins -- is urging parents not to let their children play tackle football until they're at least 14 years old. More...

  • How to Avoid 'Toy Overload' This Holiday Season

    Santa's sleigh may be brimming with toys, but some experts say an excess of dolls, trucks and other playthings can overwhelm a child. More...

  • Lunchtime H2O May Be Key to Curbing Kids' Obesity

    Getting kids to drink water with their school lunches could help keep their weight in check More...

  • Health Tip: Sled Safer

    Help keep your child from getting hurt More...

  • 26 More
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    • Who's Most at Risk of Head Injury in Youth Football?

      Those involved in running, passing more vulnerable, study finds. More...

    • Homing In on Homework Help

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    • Health Tip: Keep Kids Safe From Fire and Heat

      Suggestions to prevent burns More...

    • AAP Offers Guidance for Infectious Disease in Sports

      Participation in organized sports can potentially expose athletes to infectious diseases, with major risk factors including skin-to-skin contact, environmental exposures and physical trauma, and sharing of equipment, according to a clinical report published online Sept. 25 in Pediatrics. More...

    • 'Green Schoolyards' May Bring Better Health to Kids

      Review found they helped with heart health, weight control, ADHD and stress relief. More...

    • Youth Football Ups Odds of Brain Problems in Adulthood

      Researchers say greater risk of behavior issues, depression in those who played tackle before age 12. More...

    • Young Kids With Cellphones Face a Hidden Risk

      Study finds elementary school children with phones are more likely to be cyberbullied. More...

    • Get Your Kids to Eat Smart at School

      Helping youngsters make the right food choices. More...

    • Team Sports for Kids: A Winning Combo

      Life lessons can be learned on the playing field. More...

    • Later School Bell Could Boost U.S. Economy by $83 Billion Over Decade

      Extra sleep for students would lead to better grades, plus provide mental, physical benefits, report says. More...

    • AAP: Watch for Rapid Weight Changes in Young Athletes

      In a new clinical report from the American Academy of Pediatrics, published in the September issue of Pediatrics, clinicians are reminded to promote healthy weight control in young athletes. More...

    • Calming Those Back-to-School Jitters

      Child development expert offers advice on how to ease anxiety as classes start. More...

    • Health Tip: Encouraging Your Kids to Brush

      Here's how some dentists do it More...

    • Health Tip: Inspect Your Child's Playground

      Look for hidden dangers More...

    • Overweight Kids Pay a Heavy Social Price

      They tend to have fewer friends, which can lead to depression and other emotional problems, researchers say. More...

    • Evidence Lacking for Adolescent Idiopathic Scoliosis Screening

      The U.S. Preventive Services Task Force (USPSTF) has concluded that there is currently insufficient evidence to assess the benefits and harms of screening for adolescent idiopathic scoliosis in children and adolescents ages 10 to 18 who don't have any signs or symptoms. These findings form the basis of a draft recommendation statement published online May 30 by the USPSTF. More...

    • Playgrounds Aren't Always All Fun and Games

      Fortunately, there are ways to prevent injuries to children, ER doc says. More...

    • Bullied in 5th Grade, Prone to Drug Abuse by High School

      Victims may develop depression, fueling risky behaviors, study suggests. More...

    • Timing of Lunch, Recess May Determine What Kids Eat

      Study found children who ate first consumed more vegetables, while those who played first wasted less food More...

    • At What Age Can Kids Safely Cross the Street?

      In simulated experiments, the task was too tough for children younger than 14. More...

    • Stronger Muscles May Pump Up Kids' Memory Skills

      Study found link between fitness and test scores for recall ability. More...

    • Injury Risk May Rise When Kids Play Just One Sport

      Those under 12 shouldn't specialize in any one activity, researchers say. More...

    • Savvy Marketing Gets Schoolkids to Eat Their Greens

      Signs throughout school, on school's website made students 3 times more likely to use the salad bar. More...

    • Kids Start Moving Less After Age 7, Study Finds

      Activity levels drop off equally among boys and girls, and continue dropping steadily through adolescence. More...

    • Rising Number of Kids Ill From Drinking Hand Sanitizers: CDC

      Some children aged 6 to 12 may be intentionally consuming brands containing alcohol, researchers say. More...

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