Ask many seasoned parents and they will tell you that the age of nine seems to be when things start to shift and their child seems to be leaving childhood behind and looking forward to the upcoming years of adolescence. Nine is considered the beginning of the “tween” years, the place where children launch into puberty.
Making the leap from one developmental stage to the next is never easy; it’s harder still when the move is from the relative comfort of childhood to the potential turbulence of adolescence. Being nine is an age of significant change, but it’s rarely recognised as such.
1. Puberty starts for some
This is also a time when girls and boys can be vulnerable to body image problems, so be aware of comments you make around clothing, appearance and weight. It’s also a time to watch your own attitude to food and dieting. Better to adopt a healthy, balanced approach to eating than be constantly dieting.
2 Getting ready for the future
Your nine-year-old needs nurturing, attentive parenting while at the same time being encouraged to take greater responsibility. Help your child develop basic competencies such as planning their day and introducing themselves to new friends. These will help later with secondary school success.
3. Starting the move from parent to peer
Nine-year-olds are usually keen to do things away from their parents and home. Sleepovers are increasingly common. However, peers can present a tricky proposition at this age. Many nine- year-olds have many BFFs – best friends forever – but these can change very quickly as good friends come and go. Girls (more than boys) often experience friendship difficulties at this age as the one thing they want in a friend – loyalty – can go missing.
4. Homework may rear its head for some
Homework can divide households at this age. Many boys struggle with the whole concept, while girls will often do it to please. Good homework for this age group has a set purpose, such as developing required planning and organisation skills. Find out from your school what they are trying to achieve with their homework policy and be led by their guidelines.
5. Regular pocket money will get a thumbs-up
Your nine-year-old will appreciate getting a regular allowance as well as the ability to decide how they spend it. ‘Guide, rather than decide for them’ is the parenting mantra with pocket money. Resist the temptation to top their pocket money up if they spend it all on one item and leave nothing for the rest of the week. At this age, your child is capable of learning from the consequences of their decisions, and such lessons will help them improve their impulse control, which should have started to develop by now.
6. Self-control needs to be modelled
Another aspect of self-control is the ability to handle frustrations and deal with conflict. By now your child should be able to understand that conflict resolution doesn’t need to involve physicality or put downs. Encourage them to talk through any issues involving a sibling with you as a referee, for as long as it takes, rather than resorting to uncivilised and unjust methods of solving them.
7. Prepare them for when you are not there
Discuss with your nine-year-old the behaviours that are appropriate when adults are not around. Reassure your child that they can say no to another child or adult if they feel uncomfortable about a situation they are in. Increasingly, your child will be in situations in which they have to decide the right thing to do on their own – at those times their understanding of your expectations will matter.
8. Look for supportive groups
Encourage your nine-year-old to be involved in positive activities and supportive groups such as a sports team, drama club, Scouts/Guides or the like. Attend these activities with your child and get to know their friends and their families.
9. Build on your relationship
Make the most of the opportunity that your child’s tenth year provides. Make sure they are actively part of your family through the contributions they make. And, of course, make sure they feel loved, valued and understood. The relationships you build now will help you stay close during the more turbulent years of adolescence ahead.
Learn more about nine year olds and every age group with our new developmental maps.